I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Published by Sourcebooks Fire on January 5, 2016
Source: the publisher
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.
This book was haunting, chilling, riveting and realistic. It absolutely gutted me. My heart hurts for these characters, for the fact that this happens all the time in our world now. It feels really weird to say that this book was amazing, fantastic and epic because of the subject matter. But.. Nijkamp just did such an amazing job. Her writing – and the format of the book – really pulled the reader in, setting the tone and pace very early on. This is a book that will definitely stay with me for a long, long time.
Usually, I write about the characters of a book in great detail, because I’m an incredibly character driven reader. But it’s hard to talk about these characters in detail without spoilers. And it’s difficult to put into words how I felt about them – who I liked and didn’t like, who I sympathized with, who I feared for – because, really, I tried not to get too close to the characters. Logically, going into this book, you know you shouldn’t become too attached to them because you don’t know who will and won’t survive. But it’s really difficult to remain indifferent while reading a story such as this. You have to uncaringly care – which, I know, that’s the biggest contradiction ever. But… Just read the book, you’ll see what I mean…
That being said, I really found myself riveted by Sylv and Autumn. Their stories – the things they went through in this book – were the stories I wanted to see/hear/experience the most. For reasons. But.. spoilers.. So… Moving on…
There wasn’t a single moment in this book where my heart wasn’t pounding, where I didn’t feel tense and anxious, desperate to see how things would end, who would survive, who wouldn’t. And the fact that they were locked in the auditorium, with nowhere to run or hide, truly added to the urgency and horror. But the ending was, by far, the most intense part of this book. And that’s saying a lot, because every single part of this book was intense. But the ending took things to another level. My hands were actually shaking as I held my iPad, as I swiped to the next page and the next. I was blinking back tears, screaming in protest, begging the characters to stay safe. I was mentally and emotionally drained after finishing it.
I think the thing about this book that really hit home, though, was the social media aspect. It was incredibly heartbreaking and chilling. It was also very realistic, something we’ve actually seen happen during real life tragedies. Especially the news outlet aspect (I don’t want to describe this in detail, but it’ll make more sense if/when you read the book).
This was not an easy book to read. I imagine it wasn’t easy for Nijkamp to write, either. I absolutely recommend this book – I think it’s very important and relevant for today’s audience. But I also beg you to read with caution. Some scenes are vivid and graphic, some may be emotionally traumatizing. I would definitely say there are several trigger warnings that need to be tagged on to this book – obviously, the school shooting and violence/death aspect trigger warning. Sadly, I can’t go into detail on some of the other trigger warnings because they’re actually pretty spoilerish. But know that they are there and prepare yourself for them. I’ll vaguely tell you that bullying, rape and abuse are mentioned, as is loss of a parent (both via sickness and via death).
There are so many more things I could say about this book, but I think I’ll leave it be. You’ll either read this book and discover them for yourself, in which case, I don’t want to spoil you too much. Or you’ll find you’re not able to read the book and, in that case, probablely don’t want to hear further details about it.
Needless to say, this book was… Whoa.