First sentence: “Everything ends.”
What happened to Janie Vivian? All Micah Carter wants to know is what happened to his friend, but he can’t remember. In This Is Where the World Ends, readers join Micah and Janie as they recall the events of what happened before and after the incident, and it really looks like the end of the world for this pair of friends.
Structure of the narrative: The narrative in This Is Where the World Ends is broken down into three parts that weave in and out of each other. They are
- the “After”: set in the middle of November after everything that happened, this is where Micah tries to figure out what happened during the house party bonfire and why Janie disappeared;
- the “Before”: set between early September to the middle of October, they’re flashbacks from Janie’s point of view of her life and what’s been going on;
- Janie’s journal entries: a lot of fairytales Jane created for her school project.
Who are Janie and Micah? Janie is a dreamer, self-assured, demanding, and unknowingly manipulative. She has a plan for the people in her lives; she’s designated roles they have to fulfill. She’s the sort of person who will string you along for her own personal gains—like to make herself feel better that she has people devoted to her or likes her.
Micah is shy and awkward, and “lives like an apology.” He’d rather have the attention drawn away from him. He is hopelessly in love with Janie, and everybody—at least the people who know about their relationship and readers—can see how stupid he gets for her. You just want to shake him by the shoulders to see reason.
Friendship between Janie and Micah: Janie and Micah, Micah and Janie, their names are strewn at the seams of their soul. It’s an all-consuming friendship that’s pretty toxic. For these two, there was never a time when they were not friends. Their friendship is an unconventional one—specifically what they do and when they do it. You will find the two of them hanging out at the quarry or rewarding people who are on their “hit list” usually in the dead of night. When you learn more about these two and their friendship, you see that it’s not a healthy relationship. If you saw them, you wouldn’t expect them to be friends at all.
Writing: I can see why people rave about Amy Zhang’s writing. I may not have liked what happened, but the writing is frickin’ wonderful, especially with how it works great with the disjointedness of the story. It’s almost like poetry.
The thing with Janie: I can see many people not liking Janie, but I find her fascinating. Her story arc is so disjointed, and it’s so fitting because of what happens to her. Janie starts out with an idyllic fantasy of the way her life is supposed to go—like a sweet fairytale—but not all fairytales have happy endings. There’s so much darkness in Janie that she tries to keep away by building this illusion of a happy life, and when something terrible happens to her, she spirals more into the depth of darkness. Her sections become more disjointed, which I loved, even if it frustrated and saddened me.
Trigger warning: Rape, suicide, bullying
Should you read This Is Where The World Ends? You should. Four reasons: 1. great non-linear story, 2. interesting depiction of a non-healthy friendship, 3. a girl who learns that life is not a fairy tale, and 4. the writing is so lovely. Also, this is not a happy book.