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“We're more than our mistakes. We're more than what people expect of us.” —This is Where It Ends
This is Where It Ends
by Marieke Nijkamp
AR Test, LGBTQ
No one ever thought this could actually happen to them. Not here. Not in Opportunity, Alabama.
It is just a normal morning at Opportunity High School when a frightening series of events forever alters the lives of all who are inside. At the conclusion of Principal Trenton’s back-to-term speech in the auditorium, the exit doors fail to open as thousands of students frantically attempt to exit. Two minutes later, someone starts shooting.
Lasting only fifty-four minutes, this harrowing story is told from the perspectives of four different students, each of who have personal connections with the shooter. Those minutes are packed with enough action and tension to feel like a year. This suspense-filled novel dives deep into the emotions of high schoolers and examines the complexities of a murderer’s personality. Riddled with guilt and fear, the characters of this novel make the tragic and once so seemingly impossible situation relatable for the average teen reader.
As the subject matter of this book is very mature, it is not recommended for younger readers. It deals with content such as a school shooting, the passing of a parent, violent deaths, and homosexuality. The author suggests it for readers 14 and above, but some teens may still be disturbed by the novel’s contents. Nevertheless, This is Where it Ends is a well-written and compelling book that examines a topic that has become increasingly important in modern teens’ lives. It allows readers to ponder the intricacy of teen relationships and the value that we place on social acceptance.
- There are several references to a romantic relationship between Claire and Tyler, the shooter.
- Autumn and Sylv are dating secretly. They often hold hands and Sylv, “wanted nothing more than to kiss her, but instead, we held hands.” In another scene, they kiss, “I leaned in, cupped her cheek in my hand, and kissed her,” but as Autumn is afraid of what people will think, she does not “come out.” Facing death, the two admit their feelings in front of the entire school.
- One of the murdered characters is “Kevin Rolland, one of Opportunity High School’s only out-and-proud students.”
- At junior prom, Tyler corners his sister’s girlfriend, Sylv, and attempts to kiss her. This experience is traumatic for Sylv and leads to the breakup of Claire and Tyler.
- During the shooting, Claire and her track teammates are locked out of the school, and they try to get help. As the crisis continues and deaths are discovered, Claire realizes that she is in love with her best friend, Chris, and acts on her feelings. It begins as “I curl my fingers around Chris’s and lean into him” and escalates to, “I look up and touch my lips to Chris’s . . . It’s as if I don’t know where he ends and I start . . . He leans in and kisses me again as if the world were ending. And actually, it has.”
- Sylv mentions that Tyler raped her. It is not described.
- Autumn’s father abuses her. She mentions that he hits her and shows her bruises.
- Tomás constantly beats up and bullies Tyler for threatening his sister. Tomás thinks, “The one time his eyes weren’t glossed over with contempt was when I slammed his head into a locker. My fingers itch to do it again.”
- Tyler enters the auditorium and shoots many people; he “picks them off methodically.” He shoots the principal first. “All I can see is Principal Trenton’s surprised smile as she was shot and the horror of the people around who rushed to help her . . . There’s death, there’s dying, and there’s blood everywhere.”
- The bodies of two victims are described. “Two students . . . are splayed across the chairs in front of Tyler. The boy still has his bag half slung over his shoulder as his blood mixes with hers.”
- Tomás is frustrated with his inability to be helpful during the shooting, and “I turn on my heels and ram my fist into one of the supply cabinets. The thin board splinters on impact, cutting my knuckles, but the pain offers no relief.”
- During the shooting, Tyler threatens Sylv. “He placed his hands on my shoulders again, his thumbs digging into my neck . . . When I tried to roll over and crawl away from him, his boot found my stomach, and I doubled over. He pinned me, his knees on my arms and his hands on my shirt.”
- When attempting to find the janitor to help unlock the auditorium doors, Tomás and Fareed find him dead in the supply closet. “His hands are bound together with a cable tie pulled so tight his fingers have gone black. Cable ties circle his neck, and he is gagged. His eyes are empty; his face is as discolored as his hands. Bloody scratches mark his neck, as if he tried to rip through the plastic with his bare hands.”
- The shooting of students and teachers is described in detail. “The first bullet buries itself in the teacher’s arm. The second bullet drills a hole through his chest.” In another scene, “A freshman beside us stumbles and trips, sliding against the seat when a bullet perforates her neck. I almost join the screaming as blood splatters my face.”
- Some bullying boys set fire to a student’s locker. Another student’s tires are slashed for revenge.
- Because her brother is the shooter, Autumn feels grief and responsibility for the deaths of others. She thinks, “Every time I blink, I see Nyah’s face being torn apart by the bullet . . . Ty is my only brother, but right now, I want him to die. To take the gun and shoot himself.”
- Autumn gets hit with the barrel of the gun while she is trying to stop Tyler. “His arm snaps back and the barrel of the gun bashes my cheek. Spots of light burst in my vision. Pain blossoms over my face. Blood pools in my mouth.”
- Near the conclusion of the novel, Tyler shoots Autumn and then kills himself, “When he pulls the trigger, I feel the shot rather than hear it. Pain overwhelms me. The floor opens up around me. The last thing I see before I fade is Ty turning the gun on himself . . . Then he blows his brains out.”
Drugs and Alcohol
- Tyler and Autumn’s father is an abusive alcoholic. “Mr. Browne drowned his sorrows in alcohol.”
- Tomás describes what usually follows an assembly as, “So everyone pushes to leave, then strolls, dawdles, sneaks out for a smoke and some air (the two aren’t mutually exclusive, thank you very much).”
- Claire thinks of the track runners’ get-together at the end of the school year. The event has “no alcohol until the JV athletes are asleep, but then we’ll drink. We’ll toast our four years together.”
- Profanity is used fairly often throughout the novel. This includes: dammit, hell, fuck, and fuck off.
- Claire describes the re-built version of Opportunity High School as, “state of the art—larger sports fields, fancy equipment, right in the middle of fuck all.”
- “Oh my God” is said once and “God” is said once.
- The people who are around Autumn in the auditorium are described as, “no longer pitiful, no longer worried about my poor, fucked-up home.”
- Tyler rants to Autumn in between shooting people. “You know how much it hurt to find out about you and that—that slut?”
- After hearing the sound of the first bullet rip through the air, Claire and Chris decide to run for help. Before running, she chooses to “whisper a prayer to anyone who might listen.”
- Upon seeing the mutilated body of the dead janitor, Fareed, “mutters something, but I can’t make out the words. It sounds like a prayer of sorts in the language of his parents.”
- When Sylv comes out to her family as gay, she mentions that “Father Jones preaches about sin, hell, and damnation.”
by Morgan Filgas