It took only twenty-two minutes for Kirby Matheson to exit his car, march onto school grounds, enter the gymnasium, and open fire, killing six and injuring five others.
But this isn’t a story about the shooting itself. This isn’t about recounting that one unforgettable day.
This is about Kirby and how one boy—who had friends, enjoyed reading, played saxophone in the band, and had never been in trouble before—became a monster capable of entering his school with a loaded gun and firing on his classmates.
Each chapter is told from a different victim’s viewpoint, giving insight into who Kirby was and who he’d become. Some are sweet, some are dark; some are seemingly unrelated, about fights or first kisses or late-night parties.
This is a book of perspectives—with one character and one event drawing them all together—from the minds of some of YA’s most recognizable names.
Violent Ends was a book I decided to pick up for two reasons:
- It’s written by multiple authors, including many that I really like.
- I’ve always been both disturbed and fascinated about the psychology of the students who choose to shoot their classmates at school, and left unsettled by the way it makes me feel unsafe even in my own city.
But this book is ultimately one that left me feeling undecided on whether I liked it or not. There were some aspects that I loved, and others that I didn’t. Some of them even fitted into both categories. So I’m going to attempt to dissect what it was about Violent Ends that made me read on, and what it was that put me into a mini-slump afterwards.
What I liked:
- MULTIPLE POVs. This is the aspect that falls into both categories for me. Ever since I started reading, having more than two POVs has been confusing and felt unnecessary. As Violent Ends tells SEVENTEEN stories of different people, I was a little scared to start it, to say the least. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to keep track of all these people and that some of the stories would be more interesting than others. What I liked most about the choice to write from seventeen different points of view was that we were shown the full impact of the school shooting and how it affected different people. Violent Ends just wouldn’t have been the same if it was told from one POV only, and it definitely felt engaging and fast-paced because of the switches in the narrative.
- OVERALL THEMES. The overall premise of this novel was one that intrigued me and simultaneously scared me, meaning it was a book that I was a little hesitant to pick up. Reading about a shooting is extremely confronting and often unsettling, and if you’re looking for a light read, this definitely isn’t it. It’s quite laborious to get through simply because of the heaviness of the themes and it’s also really draining for the same reason. But at the same time, I think Violent Ends is a necessary read because of how honest its portrayal into high school shootings is, and how it shows the ricocheting effect of the event. It was as equally engrossing as it was terrifying.
- CHARACTERS. Although there were quite a few characters and at times I found them hard to keep track of, I loved getting to know the different people that were affected by the shooting and the way in which they knew the killer. It was fascinating to see them try to work out why he did what he did, and how they tried to make some kind of sense about what had happened. Seeing them try to work out the inner cogs of his mind was both interesting and frightening, and it made me realise that anyone could do something like this, and sometimes it’s not who you expect. Just that idea in itself was very unsettling. I also liked how we got to know the killer through the eyes of the other people and never got to read from his perspective, which was different and intriguing to see how each person saw him and how their opinions of him and why he decided to kill his classmates differed.
What I disliked:
- MULTIPLE POVs. As I touched on before, there were seventeen characters in this story each with their own point of view, and so keeping track of all of them and their relation to the killer was sometimes difficult. I also found that sometimes I couldn’t connect to one of the characters and found their chapter duller than the others. While I liked seeing how everyone is affected by an event differently, I felt as though fewer POVs, maybe only ten, would have sufficed and the novel wouldn’t have lost what made it so unique.
- SLOW-PACED. A lot of this novel did, unfortunately, feel quite slow. Although the constant switching between POVs allowed the pacing to feel increased in tempo, the shooting occurred very early on and what we were shown was just the aftermath. While I liked how the novel is focused around how everyone experienced the event and how they cope afterwards, I felt as though a few other experiences rather than just the shooting could have given the novel more depth. Yes, while these people’s lives might revolve around the shooting for a while after, it shouldn’t be the thing that defined these characters and I would have liked to have seen more of their lives, not just their inquisitions into the killer. This would have helped me connect to them more, but I can understand that the shooting was the main theme of this novel and it needed to convey this through the focus on the killer.
Ultimately, Violent Ends is a unique and unsettling expository of human nature and the way in which people try to make sense of the things that provide no explanation. If you feel like reading a dark and compelling novel that will leave you questioning both your own morality and the reasons why people commit evil acts seemingly for no reason, I highly recommend picking up this novel.
Have you read Violent Ends yet? What’s your opinion on multiple POVs? What’s one book you think does multiple POVs really well? What’s the most thought-provoking book you’ve read recently? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Thanks to Simon & Schuster for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!