It’s not often that you start a book knowing a character you love is likely to die. Yet This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp does just that, leaves you braced from page one, on the edge of your seat, desperate to know what will happen next. Who will survive. If anybody will survive.
Kirkus calls This Is Where It Ends a “brutal, emotionally charged novel [that]will grip readers and leave them brokenhearted.” Given what This Is Where It Ends tackles, “brokenhearted” might be the nicest way of saying “clutching a box of tissues, desperate for more of Nijkamp’s writing and aching for something a little kinder.”
In This Is Where It Ends, the principal of Opportunity, Alabama’s high school finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve. The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class. The auditorium doors won’t open.
Someone starts shooting.
“When I set out to write this story, I knew I wanted to stick as close as possible to the event itself,” said Nijkamp. This Is Where It Ends takes place over the span of one 54-minute class period, each chapter flicking between four students who know the shooter.
“I wanted to stick close to that feeling that, when massive events like these happen, time seems to freeze and from every single moment to the next your life changes, over and over again. So that was always going to be the story, right from the start. That didn’t mean the time restrictions weren’t a challenge — but I knew what I had to work with.”
To track both the students and the progressing hour, Nijkamp wrote with spreadsheets, tracking students on nearly a minute-by-minute basis.
“That way, I could keep track of where they were, what they did, how their actions influenced others – especially the characters who were in the same room – and made sure nothing conflicted,” said Nijkamp, before adding cheerfully, “It was so much fun!”
While Nijkamp’s book may leave readers clutching a box of tissues, brokenhearted in only the way a book can leave you, publishing a book – and one that moves people as much as a This Is Where It Ends does – is dream come true for her.
“Which is a bit of a cliché, but as someone who finished my first manuscript at 13 [or]14, to hold a real book with real pages and a real cover in my hands is the most wondrous thing. And to be able to share with a community that I’m lucky to be a part of only makes it better. The support, excitement, and love within this community is truly amazing.”
This Is Where It Ends releases tomorrow; Nijkamp will be launching the book with a free event at Books of Wonder in New York City. For more on Nijkamp, visit her website or follow her on Twitter.