Wednesday, April 6, 2016

A Well-Meaning But Ineffective Tragedy

Source: Author Website
This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp (Sourcebooks Fire, 2016, 288pp.)

During a welcome-back assembly at a rural American high school, Ty Browne, a former student, slips inside the auditorium and locks the doors, trapping everyone inside. When the staff and students realize that something is wrong, he pulls out a gun and starts shooting. The ensuing horror is seen through the eyes of four students, each of whom struggles valiantly to live through the next fifty-four minutes. Unfortunately, not all will survive.

Although this is unfortunately going to be a negative review, I have to start off by applauding the author’s effort to mine an incredibly painful topic. She was also very creative with the way she interspersed blog posts, Twitter feeds, and text messages throughout her prose. However, I’m afraid that’s where my praise is going to stop, because overall, I found Nijkamp’s debut novel to be pretty shallow. What else do you call a story where non-descript students and staff are dispatched shortly after being introduced? Where friends still manage to keep up their regular, witty banter while fleeing for their lives? In addition to this, there’s an annoying amount of speech-making that allows the shooter to indulge in a long-winded bad-guy monologue. At another point, one of the protagonists manages to claim the moral high ground by delivering a brief but impassioned speech:
    “You think you’re something, don’t you? […]” [Ty] says. “Are you afraid now? This time, I’m in control, and there is nothing you can do about it.”
    “You’ll kill me. That’s that. So no, I’m not afraid.” I shrug while sweat runs down my back and my arms. “Funny thing, though, that still means I am in control.”
    He pulls the trigger, and I flinch. The bullet buries itself in the wall beside me. Tyler’s gloating makes me want to charge him. But I refuse to give him that pleasure.
    “You’ll kill me on my terms,” I say... (239)
Essentially, This is Where it Ends is a well-meaning, but ineffective tragedy that tries to soften the blows of character loss by leaning on the laws of Hollywood fiction. Recommended for Ages 16-Up.

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