By Nitu Girish Mohan
All it takes is 54 minutes to flip someone’s world around
This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp is not an easy read. Yes, it may be short and fast-paced but what the story contains is much bigger than what it seems. No matter your age, this book will leave you heartbroken, grief-stricken, and reflecting on real-world events.
Fifty-four minutes is all it takes for a small school in Alabama to be put through more terror and trepidation than one can imagine. Tyler Browne, a high school dropout, arrives at school with a gun in hand and no mercy in mind. He begins shooting at innocent students and faculty trapped in the school’s auditorium, and he doesn’t show any sign of stopping. All the while, the story is told from four different students’ perspectives: Claire (who heard the gunshots and ran), Autumn (Tyler’s sister who is in the auditorium), Sylv (who is with Autumn and has a close relationship with her), and Tomàs (Sylv’s twin brother who is outside of the auditorium but stuck inside the building).
Throughout the novel, Nijkamp’s utilization of metaphors sets This is Where it Ends worlds apart from the rest. “The auditorium isn’t a hunting ground; it’s a shooting range. It’s a morgue.” The English language becomes molded clay under Nijkamp’s hands: portraying terrible scenes in powerful and compelling tones. “A thunderstorm of bullets shatters any inkling of hope.” She uses metaphors as a path from reality to disaster and conveys through her words the intertwining of both.
Nijkamp also employs a first-person point of view for all of the characters. Every time the point of view changes, the reader is given a look through a different character’s eyes. “The next gunshot make my knees buckle.” From these rapid changes, the reader either feels fear or hope or pure dread within a matter of minutes. “I take a deep breath and caress the rice paper between thumb and finger. And I let go.” Based on the different setting each character is placed in – whether it be with the shooter or without – the reader experiences a multitude of perspectives, and this brings style to her writing.
This is Where it Ends falls in the same category as books such as The Hate List and Nineteen Minutes; but rather than speaking of the aftermath of the shooting, This is Where it Ends gives the reader a real-time experience of the actions taken during the shooting as it happens; watching the story unfold in play-by-play action and never missing a single detail.
In my opinion, This is Where it Ends is a book that is breaking all norms. One thing that stood out to me, personally, was that Nijkamp made sure that her cast of characters was well-rounded and diverse. There are a variety of races, ethnic backgrounds, and ages present throughout the whole story. The fact that the main topic of This is Where it Ends is seen in the world today, especially in the United States,causes readers to think and reflect on what they are reading. After all, sometimes the most tremendous books don’t originate from our own imaginations but from today’s headlines.
Through multiple themes of mental health awareness, fact vs. fiction, and love and sacrifice are discerned throughout the story, all of them work in Nijkamp’s favor in propelling This is Where it Ends onto many bestsellers lists. Though the book may be short, one will never stop thinking about it.
One last thing: you will cry.