The principal of the high school in a small Alabama town finishes her assembly speech at 10am. As the students get up to leave, they realize the doors are locked moments before gunshots ring out in the auditorium. In the 54 minutes that follow, they are faced with surviving the horror of one student’s revenge.
This Is Where It Ends is told through four alternating points of view that detail minute by minute what the teachers and students are going through during the horrific nightmare. In a way, while I felt the different narrators helped to round out the story it also felt a bit contrived to follow how all of them were connected. I suppose it is a small town, but the dynamics and relationships between the characters felt too perfectly placed for me. One moment near the end in particular felt to be so completely unnecessary except for the purpose of creating an even more emotional and dramatic ending. Even the character’s motivation makes no sense and that broke me out of the story’s spell.
That being said, the essence of the story itself is a powerful and gut-wrenching novel. Too often this has become the norm in many U.S. schools and Nijkamp doesn’t hold back from writing about the violence that takes place inside the walls of the high school. Not only does the author tackle the serious topic of school shootings but also the media response. One of the more compelling aspects, to me, were the insertions of students posting on social media about the shooting as it unfolds for them – using it to find out what’s going on and to locate friends. It felt very realistic of what would happen in this day and age, and then to see journalists hungry to get a story from one of the kids. Those tweets and blog posts left an equally haunting impression to me.