After going back and forth and holding a heated internal argument, I have decided to give what will probably be the lowest score in this blog’s history, but I’ll also try to justify why it’s receiving such a low score…
This book came into my life by way of Overdrive’s Big Library Read. In case anyone out there doesn’t use Overdrive (my local library does and I LOVE it), the Big Library read is a book that they make available to every overdrive user (there’s usually a limit on the number of people who can download a copy at any given time), as a sort of book-club for everyone who’s using the platform. I’ve read a few books because of BLR, and this is honestly the first one I haven’t enjoyed. This is Where it Ends was the Big Library Read in October of 2016, although I didn’t end up reading it until about two weeks ago. The current (Spring 2017) BLR is Art of the Pie if anyone is interested.
This is the first Big Library Read that I have experienced that has been for young adults, but This is Where it Ends has (according to my Google research methods) been a hot topic, and made its way onto several lists of good reads for 2016. My first upset with this novel is that it is not a book I would ever want a young adult reading, not because I don’t think they can handle the issues raised by the story (mass shooting, sexual assault, and domestic violence to name only a few), but because the book itself couldn’t handle these things. Young adults deserve good writing!
As I was saying, though, is that the book raises many complex and important issues. But these issues are not examined with any clarity, finesse, or sensitivity. If homophobia is going to inhabit your book for young adults, then have it live there by examining the issues.
This leads into my next issue with the novel; the characters are merely caricatures. It felt like the author had a checklist to achieve diversity (this one must be gay, that one should be Muslim, etc.). The diversity in the book would in fact be commendable if a single character had any life to them, and if there had been any content to their life besides stereotypes. Diversity alone is not enough if they’re all cardboard cutouts! The “character building” occurs in flashbacks, which complicates the way that the reader interacts with the characters, often making them come across as insincere as they think about their pasts (the flashbacks) instead of focusing on the terror they are currently facing. To make matters worse, the dialogue is flat, so not only are the internal thoughts of each narrator boring, but they also don’t speak like real people.
Another issue is that the timeline makes no objective sense; feats performed cannot be done that quickly. Which is weird since the format is so dependent on the timeline in the book (each chapter starts with a time stamp or two).
Worst of all, the actual action is insensitive, and shows none of the delicacy of other books about school shootings. There’s no purpose, and no message, which is a terrible way to interact with a young adult audience about serious topics. It’s almost written like the author saw a school shooting in the news, and then decided to write about how they think a shooting would impact people. This is especially evident in the epilogue, where all the surviving students talk about their healing and strength, but when they haven’t been shown to have grieved or been effected at all, the healing is neither earned nor appropriate.
As for the low score….
In my mind, there is nothing redeemable about this book. There are so many problems that even in writing this review I don’t feel like I’ve mentioned everything. The cover is the best part of the whole thing, which really solidifies that age-old cliché. As for not giving the book a 0/10, I felt like the fact that the author actually sat down and wrote something is enough to merit a 1. On the other hand, I’m pretty upset that so many people out there have been promoting this book, especially the push to have younger teens read it, because in my mind this is wholly inappropriate.
AND WHAT ABOUT THE MOVIE? Please. Please, Hollywood, do not make this a movie. PLEASE.
P.S. The action takes place at Opportunity High School (in Opportunity, Alabama), and if I had to read one more pun that played on the word opportunity with my own two eyes I was going to SCREAM.