“It always seems a bit abstract, doesn’t it? Other people dying” – Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister
Quite well said. We often read in the newspaper about all the unfortunate things that happen to other people. We read it and sympathise. We never think it could happen to us. But it is a sympathy comprised of distance. The lack of involvement does not let us feel empathetic. Empathy is a word that is too casually used. My morbid introduction stems from all the heartache I felt and the tears that streamed down my face at the end of this book (emotional much? I know).
This is not one of those books that you can observe from the outside. The book is about a shooting at a school, told from the perspective of multiple key characters related to the shooter. We are left to pick up bits and pieces of information from the narratives to figure out what really happened in the past and why this is actually happening.
But this is no newspaper article. Marieke Nijkamp drags you by the collar, on your back, right to the middle of the auditorium where the shooting is happening. She puts you inside the heads of all those people. You can scream, shout and struggle but her grip is so tight that you will not be able to get out till it actually ends.
The writing is crisp and brief. She doesn’t linger too much on unnecessary descriptions to make sure the urgency and pace of the situation is not lost. The clock is ticking, hearts are racing and thoughts are flashing back and forth. The uncertainty of who will survive and who will not, will take you till the end. It does slow down a bit in the middle. But it didn’t stop me. I know this is probably not even 1% of what actually goes on in such a situation but can anyone really put it into exact words. I doubt.
The architecture of the book is just as fresh as the teenagers of today. It is upto date with even the technology influences in the lives of teenagers. Like I always say, this book in the YA category, is not a step by step guide to carry out a shooting in a school. It deals with the loss, pain, fear, shock and aftermath of a shooting. The book also makes you think of the famous statement – crisis reveals character. As each character tries to take control of the situation in their own way, they end up surprising themselves with revelations that they had never known was a part of them. That is exactly what crisis does to you and your relationship with others.
This is where it ends is so painfully claustrophobic that by the end you just want to crawl out as fast as you can looking for air. Obviously that is exactly what it is meant to do. If you felt it then Marieke Nijkamp has been successful in giving you the closest you can get to a gun shooting.
Definitely worth reading once. Not just for teenagers but adults too.
Can you ever be prepared enough when tragedy strikes. I don’t know.
Special mention for the book cover art. Lovely!