**Warning, the following blog contains spoilers and what could be seen as sensitive content**
We all hate to love Opportunity High and love to hate it. We can’t wait to graduate, but we don’t want to leave.
I started the book This Is Where It Ends yesterday at 11:50am. I finished the book this morning at 12:26am. It was so good, so intriguing, that I couldn’t make myself stop. I thought about how to talk about the book because it contains so many different stories that come about because of one incident. It’s told from the perspective of four different characters; Clair, Autumn, Sylv, and Tomás. The plot of the book? A school shooting that takes place in the school auditorium after the usual welcome back to school assembly.
The story takes place in Opportunity Alabama. You know how when you’re reading you sometimes get an image of characters and what things look like? Once I read that this story took place in a small town in Alabama, my brain automatically set the scene as my old high school gymnasium. I’ve attended so many assemblies in that gym, and I never felt unsafe. But, I was instantly placed into the scenario with the other characters. I became one of the other hundred students that stayed in the background. It’s the power of books. They tend to suck you in and throw you in the plot as well.
It all starts at 10:01 am. Nijkamp introduces us to the characters in the following order: Claire, Tomás, Autumn, and then Sylv.
Claire is a track star who happens to be running with her varsity teammates during the time of the assembly. Her family has a legacy of serving in the military. In fact, her older sister is deployed during the time of the event and Clair herself is a part of the JROTC drill team. We learn that Claire has an younger brother who has Lupus and struggles to walk. His name is Matt, and he has to use crutches but he is finally back at school and attending the assembly on this day of all days.
Next is Tomás. Tomás is Sylv’s twin brother and also sort of a bad boy. We are introduced to him as he breaks into the principal’s office during the assembly to look for a former students file. The one he is looking for belongs to Tyler, Autumn’s older brother who dropped out and did something to hurt Tomás’ sister. Sylv won’t tell Tomás what Tyler did, so he is trying to see if there’s anything in Tyler’s file that will give him a hint. His accomplice during this break in is his best friend Fareed, better known as Far.
Autumn’s story is a bit more tragic. The day the shooting takes place is on the second anniversary of her mothers death. Her mother was a dancer, she traveled the world and Autumn wanted be just like her. She had dreams of going to Juilliard, but her alcoholic/abusive father refuses to support her since he believes dancing is what killed his wife (it was actually a car accident, but I won’t go too into detail about that because it plays a large role in the story later).
Sylv, Tomás’ twin sister, is Autumn’s best friend. We also learn she is dating Autumn, but they keep that a secret because, well, Autumn’s father wouldn’t approve, and they live in a small town in Alabama where gossip spreads like wildfire. Sylv’s family is also in turmoil. Her mother is increasingly getting ill, although the real diagnoses is never stated, I formed the opinion it was a type of dementia or alzheimer’s. She is described as having very few “lucid” days.
So those are the four characters we experience this journey with. All have problems of their own, all struggle with their own personal battles, and now all but two are trapped in an auditorium with a mad gunman who they all know and have in common. This brings me to introducing a fifth and vital character, Tyler.
Tyler, as I mentioned before, is Autumn’s older brother and a person who hurt Sylv in a way that stays a mystery until the last few pages. He is also Claire’s ex-boyfriend, often the receiving end of Tomás’ bullying, and the shooter. He was a smart, caring boy until his mother passed away. For awhile he protected Autumn from their father’s abuse and pushed her to pursue her dancing dreams. Then, he becomes angry, sad, and all of the things you would except a young man to be after he loses his mother. But then he drops out of school, and as the characters experience this horrific event, they all have flashbacks to moments with Tyler. He continually says something along the lines of…
One day, I’ll show the world. And they’ll never forget me.
Not so out of the ordinary right? How many of us want to make a difference in this world? How many of us have dreamed about going out and accomplishing something. When someone says, “I’ll show the world” we don’t necessarily think that they’re going to do something bad. Claire says to the police,
He told me he’d show the world. He told me we’d never forget him. But I only thought he meant he wouldn’t let anyone get to him
Claire broke up with Tomás after two years of dating. Does that make her to blame? Autumn begins to push Tyler away because he isn’t himself anymore. Is she to blame? Tomás beats on Tyler because Tyler did something awful to Sylvia. Does that make Tomás to blame? Tyler accuses Sylv of stealing Autumn from him. Does that make Sylv to blame? The answer to all of these questions, for me, is I don’t think so.
What I realized while reading this book was that it’s not just one thing that sets someone off sometimes (I’m not saying that’s the case every time). It’s a bunch of little things that add up and keep piling on someone’s shoulders before they just completely disconnect. That’s what seems to happen to Tyler. It doesn’t make what he did okay, not by any means, but it did make me think.
We never know what’s going on with other people’s life. We can never understand how someone else feels because we all feel so differently. I personally feel everything so deeply, but I know people who can take hit after hit and still put a smile on their face. Positivity can be a game changer. Some people have it, and some people don’t.
Social media also plays a role in this story. Not in a bad way. At the end of every chapter some students tweets are shown. Here are a few:
GUN. HELP. #OHS
@CadetCJJ For real? There’s nothing on the news… #OHS
I always thought I’d be braver but I’m so afraid. I’m so afraid. #OHS
@CadetCJJ Can we ask you some questions about the situation at #OHS? Our reporters would like to get in touch.
I skipped school today. I’m not at #OHS. Pls stop asking me questions. I don’t know what’s going on.
I can’t believe it. Never thought this would happen at our school.
@JEyck32 You’re so naive. Don’t believe everything people tell you. There’s always more to the story.
That’s the society we live in. Do you notice the times? How quickly something can spread with a push of a button? I feel like every time I check Twitter or Facebook there’s a new trend. Sometimes it’s a meme, sometimes it’s some kind of challenge, but most of the time it’s a tragedy. A hashtag starts, people send support over the internet, we get outraged and demand change, but it never happens.
I won’t spoil the details that Nijkamp pours into her book. I know it seems like I have given a lot of information, but I haven’t even scratched the surface. Every chapter brings a new story and more clarity on the situation at hand. Ultimately, what amazed me, was that this whole book starts at 10:01am, and it all ends at 10:55am. Within the span of fifty-four minutes, destruction tears apart the lives of students at Opportunity High. The name is a bit ironic, don’t you think?
So please, read this book if you have the chance. Understand that EVERYTHING can change in a second. I did not post this blog to start any arguments or political discussions. I simply posted it because it’s a great book that includes some present day situations we all should be aware of.
This Is Where It Ends is a good read, it’s thrilling, action packed, and just beautifully written. It’s a good book. Definitely one of my top 10 now. I hope you enjoy.