‘Fear and Survival are two sides of the same coin.‘
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release date: 5th January 2016
Representation: Lesbian, Hispanic, Central Asian (Afghan)
Trigger warnings: Mass shooting, sexual assault, car accident, homophobia.
Summary: On the first day of a new semester, Autumn, Slyv, Tomàs, and Claire expect the day to be like any other. Assembly ends, but the doors are locked, and no one can get out. An ex-classmate of theirs turns up with a gun, ready to take out his anger and desperation on the people he feels abandoned him and anyone else who gets in his way. A story told from start to finish in 54 minutes will be an hour none of them will ever forget.
A book that handles such an important topic needs to have a strong foundation, but this is where it ends crumbles as easily as the chalk on it’s cover.
To say I found this book to be a disappointment would be an understatement.
Before even opening the first page, I was drawn in by the cover. It deals with an important subject, and I was excited to start reading. My excitement fizzled out within the first few pages.
I will start by saying that Nijkamp does an excellent job of portraying the complexities of teenage relationships; between friends, acquaintances, and those whose names we’ve only heard in passing. Even in our darkest moments, or our brightest, we remember everyone who had an impact on our life-no matter how small. The positibrd seem to stop there.
This book is nothing more than a teenage love story hidden behind the idea that it deals with important issues. The characters are one dimensional. They seem to all only have one motive, and it’s like the shooting happening seems to come second to their own trivial needs. It’s in the background, despite it being the main plot of the entire book. It’s drowned out by a confusing mix of POVs, characters and tenses. The book regularly switches between current events and the past, but the use of flashbacks adds nothing to the story. Every time the POV switches between the 4 main characters we get just yet another info dump of their lives. We get it thrown at us, and, instead of eagerly awaiting it, we just want it to end. Despite the precarious situation, there is no suspense, and the more info I get given about these people the less I feel like I care about them.
Show, don’t tell is the first rule of writing. You can tell the reader something a hundred times, but they aren’t going to be convinced unless you show them. It had to be made clear in actions and interactions. Nijkamp seems to forget this rule. Every paragraph throws more information at us, without offering any characters thoughts, decisions, or actions to confirm it. Understandably, a high paced environment requires high paced writing, but the pace shouldn’t sacrifice basic writing principles. It struggles to offer different perspectives, trying to write multiple characters POV’s but making them all sound so similar that it’s difficult to distinguish between them.
The shooter character is the worst of all. It’s portrays nothing but a harmful, one dimensional narrative. “shooter is evil. Gets beat by dad. Wants to kill everyone.” Situations like this are complex, and should be handled with care and caution. Instead, the immediate impression I get from this book is an author doing nothing more than capitalising off of one of Americas biggest problems, with no respect to anyone that has actually been affected by situations like these. This may not be the case, but this is how it feels to read this book.
There are LGBTQA+ characters, a school shooting, characters of various race and religions-everything you could ask for, and more-and yet the entire thing just falls flat. It’s representation and issues all shoved into the box of typical teen romance novel with a mix of “dad doesn’t support my dreams” thrown in. I can tell that the author tried; the passion is there. Still, any readability is drowned out by trying to handle a topic too much for her abilities at the time of writing this book.
There was so much potential, and this book could have been one of the greats. Instead, it’s cheapened by black and white villain vs victim character idea, and over-dramatic writing that takes away any authenticity on the important issues it claims to raise.
Its shining glory: Nijkamp does an excellent job of portraying the complexities of teenage relationships; between friends, acquaintances, and those whose names we’ve only heard in passing. Even in our darkest moments, or our brightest, we remember everyone who had an impact on our life-no matter how small.
Its fatal flaw: The entire book is one dimensional. It tries to tackle multiple issues but falls flat with every attempt. The whole thing gives the impression of an author doing nothing more than capitalizing off of one of Americas most significant problems. It feels like it has no respect for anyone that has been affected by similar situations. This may not be the case, but this is how it feels to read this book.
Read this if: You’re looking for a YA romance that doesn’t just focus on the couple, and want to read something with a very black and white victim/villain characterisation.
Skip this book if: You’re looking for something that handles the shooting aspect more earnestly.