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I received this e-Arc from NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire in exchange for an honest review.

Release Date: January 5th, 2016

Synopsis: 

10:00 a.m.

The principal of Opportunity, Alabama’s high school finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new series semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve.

10:02 a.m.

The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class.

10:03 a.m.

The auditorium doors won’t open.

10:05 a.m.

Someone starts shooting.

Told over the span of 54 harrowing minutes from four different perspectives, terror reigns as one student’s calculated revenge turns into the ultimate game of survival.

This Is Where It Ends has been a much hyped book since last fall, so when I actually was approved for a coveted e-ARC from the publisher I was thrilled. I’ve been sitting on my hands to stop myself from reading it until closer to the publishing date. After all that, it wound up being one of my biggest disappointments of the past year.

So, where did it go wrong? Well, let’s start with the general layout of the book. Although it’s only 292 pages, I found myself forcing my way through the pages at times and more than once I completely lost focus. The chapters are short, but in addition to alternating between four characters, they also flash back and forth between the horrific events that are unfolding and the past. This made things confusing and disjointed.

And this leads me to what really annoyed me about this novel–the characters. Because of the way the chapters are written it is impossible to get any kind of real sense of these kids, let alone emphasize with them. It also seemed as though the author tried too hard to make the characters diverse, especially for a small southern town. Perhaps this is because Marieke Nijkamp is a member of We Need Diverse Books. While I think I can appreciate what she was attempting, instead this comes off as cynically manipulative. It was almost as if she had a list she went through:

Muslim-American -check

Hispanic-Americans – check

African-American -check

Disabled boy – check

Two gay teens in love – check

Ironically, the person you most want to hear from–the shooter, you don’t except through wooden dialogue. Tyler Browne is an evil, one-dimensional character from beginning to end. Honestly, I kept expecting him to break out in a “Mowahaha!” every five seconds as he strutted in front of his victims. In real life, we’ve unfortunately heard all too many stories of school shooters who were bullied either at school, home or in some cases both. These are not instances of children being teased. No, oftentimes these kids are tormented beyond endurance until they snap. In this story I never came to understand what turned Tyler into the monster he became.There’s a few vague explanations, but nothing I could buy into. The only thing I came away with is that he’s a homophobe and a rapist, who while is physically abused by his alcoholic father, and bullied a little by a few classmates, gives as good as he gets. He even turns on his twin sister Autumn, going as far as to report on her to their father when he knows full well she’ll receive a beating. This is someone who has absolutely no redeeming qualities whatsoever.

This Is Where It Ends could have been a groundbreaking novel that lent itself to some much needed discussion between teens and adults, but instead it’s an exploitative tale that takes real issues such as: physical abuse, bigotry, rape, etc., and reduces them to the kind of cheap thrills you find in some awful Lifetime movie of the week. For those of you who don’t live in the U.S. Lifetime is a cable channel which specializes in “issue oriented” movies. There are so many deaths here that after the first few, I found myself for the most part, not caring anymore. There’s one secondary character who I did become emotionally invested in which is why I’m giving this even 1.5 stars. There are already many reviews on Goodreads and if you are a parent or teacher, I encourage you to read some of them before sharing this with your teens. Because I wanted to make sure I was being fair to this much publicized book, I read it twice, but from my perspective I cannot find anything at all to recommend about it and I can’t tell you how this saddens me.

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