As the winter semester begins at Opportunity High School, most of the student body is assembled in the auditorium for the principle’s welcome back message. There are a few exceptions to this from the track team preparing to defend their state title winning streak and the two guys trying to break into the principle’s office to get a look at their permanent records.
A few minutes after ten, the doors to the auditorium are bolted shut and the first shots ring out. Former student Tyler has something to say and he’s going to say it to everyone gathered at the business end of several guns and multiple rounds of ammo.
For the next hour, This Is Where It Ends puts readers in and around Opportunity High School, watching events unfold through the eyes of multiple narrators who all ask the same question, “How did this happen here?” As the story unfolds, we find out just what drove Tyler to plan and carry out the attack on his classmates, teachers, and administration as well as feeling the desperation of those in and around the school as they struggle to survive Tyler’s attack.
The opening pages of This Is Where It Ends channel the confusion and terror of a high school shooting incident. But it’s once Tyler settles in and begins to demand that the student body listen to him now that the novel slowly begins to lose its focus. As the possible step stones to this event are slowly uncovered, Tyler more like a comic book villain while the characters around him spend a lot of time wondering if they could have contributed to or stopped this attack somehow. Included in the narration are Tyler’s ex-girlfriend, his sister and the girl he sexually assaulted on prom night. And while these characters offer different insights into who Tyler who then and is now, it never quite gels into something more. There’s also a great deal of teenage angst thrown in along the way that feels a bit out of place at times in the story that’s unfolding.
The novel also isn’t helped because it feels like it’s working too hard to make the adults appear as useless and ineffectual as possible. As the shootings begin, the track team is outside training for the upcoming season. The track coach is less effective at finding a way to address the situation and calm the fears of his team than one of his students (who happens to be Ty’s ex-girlfriend and is a member of the ROTC). I’m not asking that the adults be superheroes that can somehow magically stop the rampage that Ty goes on, but it would be nice to feel as if one or two of them was somehow portrayed as having a bit more sense.