Mini Review: Violent Ends

Written by: Shaun David Hutchinson (Editor), Kendare Blake, Steve Brezenoff, Delilah S. DawsonTrish Doller, Margie Gelbwasser, E.M. Kokie, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Tom Leveen, Hannah Moskowitz, Elisa Nader, Beth Revis, Mindi Scott, Neal Shusterman, Brandon Shusterman, Courtney Summers, Blythe Woolston, Christine Johnson
Release Date: September 4, 2015
Pages: 384, Hardback
Series: standalone
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This is one of those books where I like what it was trying to do more than I like the book itself. Violent Ends tells the story of a school shooting through seventeen different perspectives, written by seventeen different authors. I picked this book up at ALA because the names of some of my favorite authors were attached to it: Neal Shusterman, Courtney Summers, Hannah Moskowitz. Picking up anthologies is always a risk, though; there will always be stories you won’t be able to get into, and that makes it hard for me to get through them.

In this case, every one of the stories was actually good, which is pretty rare for an anthology. However, a lot of the stories ran together; they didn’t have the power or complexity I was hoping for.  I liked the book as a whole more than I liked most of the individual stories, if that makes sense.

I also thought there were a few too many stories where the protagonist is for some reason obsessed with Kirby Matheson, the shooter, even before the shooting happens. I know he’s the focal point of the book, but come on.

I still think the book’s best quality is its format. The many different voices heard in Violent Ends set the book apart. We never hear from Kirby Matheson. Instead, we see him entirely through the eyes of others, and we are given bits and pieces of his story to put together from their impressions of him and the marks he left on their lives. The stories also connect–we see the narrator from one story show up in another, and we get a whole different perspective on them. That’s always fun.

However, there were some stories that stood out to me, and they made this book worth reading. These include:

  • Survival Instinct by Tom Leveen, for the intensity and excellent writing
  • The Girl Who Said No by Trish Doller, for making me tear up the most
  • Presumed Destroyed by Neal and Brendan Shusterman, for making an unconventional POV work
  • Grooming Habits by Elisa Nader, for the twist at the end
  • History Lessons by Courtney Summers (my personal favorite) for the emotional complexity and strong voice

Violent Ends is a different take on a pretty common subject, and a reminder that everyone has a story to tell. It does a lot of ambitious things (multiple POV! Time jumps!) that end up working. Although this book wasn’t quite as mindblowing as I expected, it is still very much worth reading.



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