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.
Guys, I was really surprised by this one. It is not what you’re going to expect at all. I expected it to be sort of like a contemp, a fish out of water story with Juneau integrating into society. Instead, I got a pretty awesome conspiracy thriller with some supernatural/sci-fi elements thrown in. I really liked it.
Here’s the story: Juneau is a seventeen-year-old who is happily living with her clan in the wilds of Alaska after World War III turned the rest of Earth into a nuclear wasteland. Juneau is poised to become the next “sage”, or leader of the clan, because she has great skill in connecting to the Yara, which is the lifeforce that connects all beings and elements. But soon after she takes off on a hunting trip, she returns to her camp to find everyone gone, their animals slaughtered. She sets off on a journey to try to find the rest of her clan, and quickly discovers that WWIII never happened, and the world has advanced without her. Worse, she’s now being pursued by thugs, and she’s not sure why. Meanwhile, Miles Blackwell is trying to get back into his father’s good graces – Miles is a rich brat who’s gotten into a lot of trouble at school. When he hears that his father is chasing Juneau, he sets off to find her on his own in the hopes of getting his father to help him get into Yale and put things back to normal.
Ok, so first of all, the characters. The book alternates between first-person narration from Juneau and Miles. Right away, you know that Juneau is going to be pretty kick-butt. She can hunt, she can fish, she can totally live off the land. She’s a badass. But what I really liked about her was that she was also wonderfully fleshed-out in the ways that she reacted to the 2014 world, and how she persevered in spite of feeling manipulated and lied to. She was never once a woe-is-me character, but she did have a lot of reflection time, and I was fascinated by how much she learned about how she wanted to live versus how people live in 2014.
Miles is slightly less cool than Juneau – he’s kind of your typical spoiled rich kid. But he’s also a guy with a good heart who’s willing to learn and see past his own idiocy to become a better guy. Also, he’s pretty funny. I enjoyed his voice through the novel.
The thing is, even though you don’t know THAT much about Miles and Juneau, you really connect with them and their self-discovery. One of the best parts of the novel was how well everything fit together with Miles and Juneau’s journeys and the overarching plot. It all weaves together quite beautifully.
A big part of that weaving has to do with the supernatural elements in the story. I’m not usually a fan of that stuff (you guys know how I like my contemps!), but I really liked the magic elements and manipulation of nature in this book, because it was well-explained and really seemed to make sense for the book and the world-building. It was also incredibly fundamental to who Juneau was as a person, and it played so nicely into the end of the novel. I don’t want to say more than that.
If I have complaints, they are that 1) the ending was a little rushed, and 2) the romance resolved a little more quickly than I would have liked. Both the ending and the romance were a little too on-point, a little too much of the author telling you what the characters have realized. Despite that (I know I’m going to be shot for this), I really kind of liked the ending (it’s a cliffhanger!). We know there’s more and it felt like the natural place for a cliffhanger if you are going to do one.
After the End is a super-fast read – I got through it in about four hours, and I found the pace to be quick. There were only a few moments when I was like, “Ok, I get the idea of this part, moving on” – and just as I thought that, the switch was flipped and something changed. So yeah, Amy Plum, you totally anticipated my thoughts!
Smooth, Divergent-like Writing: I really liked the writing in After the End – it totally reminded me of Veronica Roth with its simple, strong sentences. But those sentences are also punctuated with gorgeous descriptions that really fit the voices of the characters. The metaphors and similes they used totally suited them. Have some quotes!
“Through the mosquito net I see the dew-kissed world around us turn rosy pink in the blush of daybreak. There was no war. There are no brigands. I remind myself that an apocalyptic world war never happened. But that image is such an integral part of me that this new world seems like the tall tale–a fairy-tale world, wrapped loosely like colorful paper around the burned-out husk of a postwar planet.”
“Juneau looks at me inquisitively like she’s wondering whether I’m going to cry, but those rivers have dried, and it’s only the furrows they carved into my heart that are left.”
The Final Word:
To me, After the End would be great for fans of Patrick Ness’ The Knife of Never Letting Go, and Rick Yancey’s The 5th Wave. It’s a fast-paced twist on the usual post-apocalyptic thriller, with great writing and plotting that holds together well. I’ll definitely be picking up book two!