10:00 The principal finishes welcoming the entire student body to a new semester.

10:02 The students get up to leave the auditorium.

10:03 The auditorium doors won’t open.

10:05 Someone starts shooting.

This is Where it Ends is a fast paced, page-turner, with tragedy at its heart in the form of a school shooting. Should you worry about the child who enlists and goes to war, or the one still at school? School is hardly a safe place in modern times, both mentally and physically, and it’s all the worse in a country which such lax gun control. I read it in one sitting but it failed to live up to potential and at times felt like a first draft.

If it were a 54 minute commentary on the senselessness of violence, it might have worked. However flashbacks interrupt the now and draw it out, yet still not long enough for any real character development. Multiple narrators can be a powerful tool done well but none of the voices were distinct. I often found I could only tell which character was narrating by who they were referring to.

One narration I felt was missing was the shooter’s. There was a bit of a mixed portrait of him through the flashbacks of the others. I’m not sure why his ex-girlfriend had such a big part other than to get across the point he seemed like a nice guy, when quite clearly he wasn’t. Was he damaged by trauma and domestic abuse, a huge homophobe or was he a sociopath all along, with his charming ways? Maybe the point is we never know what goes on in the heads of those who commit such crimes, but it wasn’t clear.

Whilst I can’t imagine what I’d do in the circumstances, some things didn’t quite sit right with me, like with Autumn thinking about dance whilst her brother is shooting people. Would a lone shooter go unchallenged for nearly an hour? Why did the police take so long to respond? I found it hard to swallow that they would ignore dying children in favour of clearing the area and getting the healthy ones out when a whole SWAT team was up against one teenage boy with one gun.

It was a bit of a squash to fit in as many issues as possible and none of them really got the time they deserved. The reaction to rape was just off, and not dealt with any further. Sylv’s mother has what I assume is early onset Alzheimer’s; how hard is that to deal with both as a daughter and breaking awful news that she may not be able remember. Autumn is dealing with domestic abuse at home. In some ways, I wanted the book to be twice as long to explore these areas, or at least deal with the consequences of the shooting.

The epilogue was out of place too. I would be able to believe that kind of gathering a few days after, but the same night, in the same place? Nope. People would want to be in safety with those they love. It wasn’t used to deal with the aftermath at all. It was a bit, it’s over, let’s remember people, but that’s it.

As Marieke Nijkamp is part of the We Need Diverse Books movement, the cast is at least a diverse bunch; Latino siblings, an Afghan friend, a lesbian couple and a physically disabled brother.

This is Where it Ends is published by Sourcebooks Fire and will be available in hardback and ebook editions from 5th January 2016. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy to review via NetGalley.

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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.