After the End by Amy Plum (book #1)
Release date: May 6, 2014
About the book
She’s searching for answers to her past. They’re hunting her to save their future.
World War III has left the world ravaged by nuclear radiation. A lucky few escaped to the Alaskan wilderness. They’ve survived for the last thirty years by living off the land, being one with nature, and hiding from whoever else might still be out there.
At least, this is what Juneau has been told her entire life.
When Juneau returns from a hunting trip to discover that everyone in her clan has vanished, she sets off to find them. Leaving the boundaries of their land for the very first time, she learns something horrifying: There never was a war. Cities were never destroyed. The world is intact. Everything was a lie.
Now Juneau is adrift in a modern-day world she never knew existed. But while she’s trying to find a way to rescue her friends and family, someone else is looking for her. Someone who knows the extraordinary truth about the secrets of her past. [Source: Goodreads]
This was Ms. Tong after she read the last page: “What? Nooooooo! I need to know what happens next!” (while clutching and yelling at her Kindle.)
I probably don’t need to mention that After the End is one of those books that end on a cliffhanger.
It’s also a story that got better near the end, just as the protagonist, Juneau, begins to figure out what really happened with her survivalist family and friends. So it’s a matter of getting through most of the first half and ignoring the vague similarities to notion of The Force, Eywa, Midichlorians, etc.
About the End explores the question of what one teenager would do to find her kidnapped family, only to discover along the way that she has been lied to her whole life. The novel is told in alternating points of view. In the beginning, this feels stilted, like one is reading two different novels, but eventually when both story lines intersect, the narration becomes smoother. There are some plot events that are a bit unbelievable, so at times, I could imagine what Miles (another major character) feels as he progresses through the story.
Character development is decent — and I guess one good sign of that is feeling frustration or annoyance at the main character. It took me a while to warm up to Juneau. Part of it is due to the writing. The author uses short sentences. The diction is simple, too, without too much alteration in the rhythm and flow of words. The effect of the diction is that Juneau is very committed to her quest to find her missing family. (This story made me think of Saba from Blood Red Road, another story about a girl who undertakes a dangerous journey to track down loved ones.)
Juneau has been trained to survive in the wild, and she’s also smart enough to blend in when she’s in the bigger cities. She’s had a very unusual upbringing, which comes in handy. For most of Juneau’s journey, the only thing holding her back is Miles, the city boy. But once I stopped scoffing at how quickly he begins to fall for Juneau, I didn’t mind him as much. She needs him, and having his character around helps to further the story, although it also provides chances for exposition and backstory.
All in all, this would be a good pick for high school students interested in a story with some action and a bit of the paranormal. But be warned: the novel ends just as the story finally gets interesting.