It’s rare that I read a book and don’t instantly know how I feel about it. Looking back at my Goodreads reviews, I tend to like most things (3 stars), love some things, and hate (2 stars or less) just a few others. In fact, in all my Goodreads reviews I have only given three books a 1-star review. So, finishing up a book and not instantly knowing how I want to rate it isn’t something I usually face.
That’s exactly what happened when I finished This Is Where It Ends (Marieke Nijkamp). In a nutshell, it shows the perspectives of four different students over fifty-four minutes as a high school shooting occurs. Just from that description you can probably guess why I’m so uncertain how I feel about it. Do I feel uneasy and not-liking-it because it made me feel icky and sad, or do I feel uneasy and not-liking-it because of the way the author wrote it?
In short: both. School shooting narratives are just never something I’ll like reading (is ‘like’ the right word for such a challenging topic?). But, there was also a lot narratively missing from this: framing it over fifty-four minutes means that you don’t get a lot of background or a lot of resolution (there’s about a three-page epilogue). It was also incredibly black-and-white in the characterizations, particularly of the villain.
WHAT I READ:
This Is Where It Ends (Marieke Nijkamp)
I ultimately decided to give this 2 stars. Not for me.
We are introduced to four different narrators who are in various places in their high school: Sylv and Autumn are in the auditorium listening to the principal’s speech, Tomás is skipping to break into some administrative offices; and Claire is training for a big track race coming up with the rest of the varsity team. We learn tidbits of each of their lives, until the chapter opener reads that it’s 10:05 and someone appears in the auditorium with a gun.
Turns out I’m not alone in this uneasy feeling – I brought up this book at our book club tonight and the others agreed with me on the general “eeee don’t thiiiink I liked it” feeling (and they are booksellers and librarians, so they know more than I do).
What I learned from this book is that it’s hard to know what makes a book good or bad. Just because a book covers serious topics doesn’t mean that it’s a terrible book (See: A Little Life, which is one of the most depressing books I’ve ever read). But, in this case, there just wasn’t enough to make it a worthwhile piece of literature.