Publication Date: January 5, 2016
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
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.
Told over the span of 54 harrowing minutes from four different perspectives, terror reigns as one student's calculated revenge turns into the ultimate game of survival.
*Sourcebooks was kind enough to send me an advanced papercopy of this book for review*
"Death brings life, life brings death."
A simple quote, that perfectly sums up the book. This book is about a school shooting. It follows the story of 4 students who tell the story of what happens, and the why it happens. It's a story about people coming together through the death of their friends/classmates, and people getting torn apart by those deaths.
When you approach a topic like this in writing, a book that will no doubt be controversial because of its subject matter, you have to do it well, or not at all. I am so glad to say that Nijkamp did this topic justice in my opinion. She creates these characters and this atmosphere and situation that you feel to be real. It was gripping and suspenseful and the entire time you read you just wait to see who else will die, and how this will end. It was an intense journey and I found myself needing frequent breaks to just take everything in and not get overwhelmed with the topic.
I had a few issues with the book. (And before I start with this section I just want to add a bit of a disclaimer. I find it much easier to discuss things I don't like, rather than things I do. Not because I enjoy "hating" things (which I don't hate anything in this book) but because when I talk about things I love I get very repetitive and redundant, whereas I find the words flow better when I am discussing why I didn't enjoy something. )These issues aren't things I would necessary change about the book, or things that really impacted my reading at all, they are just little things that I feel like could have been excluded without impacting the entire story. The primary one was the romance aspects of the book. This is a spoiler free review so I won't give details, but there were a few romantic moments or developments during the events of the school shooting that I found to be out of place. This story felt incredibly real and realistic but during those romantic moments there was a feeling in me of "hey, this wouldn't happen if there was a real school shooting." I wouldn't really know if that's true because I've never experienced it, but it's how I saw it.
Another small issue, and this issue isn't actually anything about the book specifically, it's actually just me not seeing the purpose of its inclusion and those are the twitter/blog posts between each chapter. It helps to create a sense of chaos because no one knows what is going on and the helplessness of not knowing anything, but because the characters in them were not recognizable to me, I just wasn't sure if I liked them.
It's very clear what the is trying to portray with this story, which is a story of a school shooting, how it affects various people and the things leading up to it. The thing is though, I feel like to get that fully, especially the "why" it happens, it I would have liked just one point of view in the shooters POV. Perhaps the last one, just to get a sense of why. There are a lot of different things that happen in their life and I would have liked to really know what it was specifically that happened because I felt like the other few characters were unreliable in telling me, and the only person really capable of doing that was the shooter themself. Again, not an issue with the book, I adore everything included, I just would have liked that (perhaps the author will release something in the future of that sort).
Things that I absolutely adored in this book was the emphasis on the positive ways social media has impacted our world today. In this horrible time of crisis, this is the only way that some people are able to contact their family.
As well, the characters are stunning in this novel. Tomas was my favourite character, along with his friend Fareed, and while some of what they do I felt to be a tad unrealistic, I loved their bravery and overall attitude in this story. Sylvia was another favourite, I adored her story and her background and her part in everything. Claire and Chris were an interesting take in the story. I adored that their story was a bit different than everyone else's and I liked to see this angle of the school shooting story. Autumn was a character I just could not connect with. She was incredibly real, and her part in the book was probably the most important, but I just found myself not liking her like maybe I should have. I didn't hate her, at all, but I didn't love or adore her like I did the other characters.
The end was beautiful. Yes it was also heartbreaking definitely, but also beautiful in its own way.
I feel like regardless of anyone's thoughts on this book, you have to admit it is a powerful story that makes you think. It makes you wonder how you would react in this situation, it makes you think about the hundreds of people who have been through the same thing, and it makes you realize that this could happen anywhere at any time. This is going to be a must read book of 2016 and I hope that everyone takes the opportunity to read this book because it's so worth your time.