I read two books yesterday, because SNOW DAY and also WINTER BREAK, and furthermore COMFY PJS!
And I can't help but compare them, despite and because of their differences. This is going to be rather spoiler-y for Code Name Verity, which I don't feel too bad about, because it's from 2012. And it may be a tiny bit spoiler-y for This Is Where It Ends, which I also don't feel too bad about, because it's about a school shooting so yeah. You already know people are going to get shot.
But if you haven't read Code Name Verity, stop being a loser like I was 48 hours ago and go read it instead of this review.
Okay, here's the thing. There are LOTS of people shot in This Is Where It Ends. Some on-screen, some off. Many fatally. All pointlessly. There are also more than a few deaths in Code Name Verity, what with it being a WWII novel and all. But there is one particular character who gets shot. That person is on their way to a concentration camp, and the shooting is a mercy killing.
I cried. I wept. I felt bereft.
It was awesome.
(Seriously, SUCH a good book. Why did I put it off for so long? When will I learn that Printz award winners are always worth reading? Even the ones I don't really like are well written.)
But in This Is Where It Ends, I had no emotional reaction to a single death. I mean, sure I was sort of cringing and "don't shoot that person--oh, okay, he shot that person" through the whole thing, but it was all really abstract and removed. Like, he shot the old librarian, and he shot the kid with fibromyalgia, and he shot that one girl's sister--and that's all they were, labels. Not people. I was shocked, but not saddened. Even the big impact shootings were abstract for me. Will he kill his sister or not? What about the ex? The girl he raped? Her brother? Whatever. He's a nut job, and they are all boring.
By this time next week I won't remember any of them. But it will take me a long time to forget "Verity" and Maddie.
Part of this is that the immediacy of Wein's narrative is enhanced by her use of first person and confessional tone, while Nijkamp uses third person and tends to tell more than show. Part of it is a matter of focus--Wein's is laser sharp while Nijkamp's is diffuse. But let me be clear--mostly it's that Wein is a fantastic writer with a compelling story. Nijcamp is an adequate writer with a hot topic.