Recommended for ages 13+
It’s the first day of the school year at Alabama’s Opportunity High. At 10 a.m. the principal finishes her welcome speech. At 10:03, the students, trying to get to class, notice the auditorium doors won’t open. At 10:05, someone starts shooting. Not everyone is in that auditorium, though – some kids are running track, some kids are cutting – and it’s up to them to help their classmates and, in some cases, family members, inside.
This is Where it Ends takes readers inside a school on lockdown. The shooter has things to say, and this captive audience is going to listen. Four narratives from teens inside and outside of the auditorium bring readers there, inside that school, waiting for the next bullet to fire. Every one of these teens has a history with the shooter – some good, some not.
This book is tense. It’s rough. Ms. Nijkamp excels at putting the reader into the middle of the chaos – the sights, the sounds, the smells, the churning inside – readers are thrown onto the same roller coaster that her characters are on. She creates strong backgrounds and uses each character’s narrative to move between past and present-day to provide a full picture not only of the traumatized teens, but a profile of the shooter himself.
There’s also a brilliant use of diversity here. We’ve got a queer female person of color as a main character. There are teens of all backgrounds in this school. This school can be Anywhere, USA, and these kids could be our neighbors, our families, our friends. Author Marieke Nijkamp is an executive member of We Need Diverse Books and the founder of DiversifYA; she practices what she preaches with eloquence and skill. Her author website offers a discussion guide for This is Where it Ends. Educators can also find resources at the National School Safety Center to deepen a discussion on school shootings and school safety.
This is a great book to have in libraries and classrooms, particularly those with a current events focus. Discussion groups will find a lot to delve into here. I’d love to see parent book groups read this, too – it’s not a pleasant topic to think about, but when it concerns our kids, it’s something we should start talking about.