This Is Where It Ends, by Marieke Nijkamp, was published in 2016, and was a New York Times bestselling Young Adult hardcover for 24 weeks, achieving the #1 spot.
I downloaded the eBook from the Seattle Public Library, and read it on the Libby by OverDrive app on my phone.
It’s 10:01 A.M. at Opportunity High School, in Opportunity, Alabama.
The first sentence is: “The starter gun shatters the silence, releasing the runners from their blocks.”
Claire is enjoying start-of-season track practice with her best friend, and fellow JROTC member, Chris.
“Time is running out.” Tomás and his friend Fareed are breaking into the school records in Principal Trenton’s office.
Autumn is at an assembly, sitting between Sylv and an empty chair, listening to Principal Trenton’s same old start-of-semester speech. Despite Trenton’s inspirational words, all college will be, for Autumn, is a way to escape her miserable life. Ever since her mother’s accident, her abusive, alcoholic father won’t let Autumn dance. Autumn used to love dancing.
Sylv is at the assembly, looking at the empty chair next to Autumn – the chair where Tyler should be sitting. She’s glad Tyler isn’t here. Sylv wishes Autumn would open up to her about her mother’s death. Sylv loves watching Autumn dance.
The assembly is over, and it’s time for Sylv to head to U.S. History.
10:02 A.M. Tomás finds what he’s looking for: the permanent record of Tyler Browne. He learns that Tyler is a closet genius, with an astoundingly high SAT score. Tomás thinks: “Maybe that explains why, despite his bravado, Tyler never made good on any of his treats. He may be a maggot, but he’s the smartest kind: a harmless one.”
Claire runs another lap with Chris. She wonders what’s going to happen when they both graduate. Claire decides that breaking up with Tyler was the right thing to do.
Autumn is asked by a girl named Asha about her auditioning for Dance. Autumn is uncomfortable. Sylv wishes she could be a better girlfriend to Autumn and encourage her more.
10:04 A.M. The assembly is over, but no one is leaving the auditorium. Autumn wonders why everyone is crowding around the doors.
Sylv figures it out; Some prankster has locked the doors.
Tomás didn’t learn much from Tyler’s file. He and Fareed agree to skip school for the rest of the day.
10:05 A.M. Inside the auditorium, Tyler begins shooting.
That’s a synopsis of the first four chapters of This Is Where It Ends. It continues for twenty-two more chapters, each covering a span of a minute or two. That doesn’t mean the chapters are short – it means the action is elongated. It’s 54 minutes, described in about 300 pages.
This Is Where It Ends is the fictional story of a school shooting, told in real time, from the points of view of Autumn (Tyler’s sister), Sylvia (who Tyler hates because of her relationship with his sister), Sylvia’s twin brother Tomás, and Claire (Tyler’s ex-girlfriend).
Claire and Chris literally run for help, pushing their muscles more than they’ve ever been pushed. Fareed calls 911, hiding his accent so the police won’t think it’s a terrorist attack and target him. Tomás and Fareed could easily climb out of a window and be safe, but they both choose to try to break into the auditorium. If only Autumn would sacrifice herself, if only one of her classmates would give away her hiding spot, Tyler might stop the killing, but she and Sylv and Asha are frozen in fear. Sylvia prays to God, and accepts that it will not be a question of getting out, but rather how much longer she’ll be alive.
Yeah, this was an extremely intense book. It was one of the more intense, emotional books I’ve read in a long time. The violence, the tension, and the fear was overwhelming. I had to stop reading every once in a while, and catch my breath. The minute-by-minute style of this book suited the story perfectly, and magnified the horror.
I couldn’t put this book down. I loved This Is Where It Ends very much. I cared about the characters, and their stories, and their thoughts. This Is Where It Ends is beautifully written.
As I was searching the internet for a 2016 bestseller, and I found This Is Where It Ends, I learned that Marieke Nijkamp is Dutch. She lives in The Netherlands. She wrote this very American book in English, her second language. I can’t wrap my mind around that.
- A bestseller from 2016