Book Review: At the End of Everything by Marieke Nijkamp
Publisher’s Book Description:
The Hope Juvenile Treatment Center is ironically named. No one has hope for the delinquent teenagers who have been exiled there; the world barely acknowledges that they exist.
Then the guards at Hope start acting strange. And one day…they don’t show up. But when the teens band together to make a break from the facility, they encounter soldiers outside the gates. There’s a rapidly spreading infectious disease outside, and no one can leave their houses or travel without a permit. Which means that they’re stuck at Hope. And this time, no one is watching out for them at all.
As supplies quickly dwindle and a deadly plague tears through their ranks, the group has to decide whom among them they can trust and figure out how they can survive in a world that has never wanted them in the first place.
Karen’s Thoughts: I am a huge fan of this author, but I thought to myself when I saw this, “Do I really want to read a pandemic novel right now?” It turns out, the answer is yes! Because this novel was entertaining but also, it provided me with something I needed more than ever: hope. Not just hope about getting out of this alive, but hope in my fellow humans. Humans have been very disappointing the last couple of years.
I loved this book! It presented us with complex characters that grew in phenomenal ways. I almost never cry while reading books – though interestingly, I cry all the time watching tv/movies – and I cried several times during this book. And I just outright sobbed at the end. But it was sobbing because beautiful things had happened. Where these characters started and who they became in the most difficult of circumstances was just the most beautiful character development I have read in a very long time.
And for those of us who work with teens, we will see so many of our teens in this story. The depth of character and backstory and how trauma informs decision making and motivation, all there on the page. As well as in depth discussions about things like justice, incarceration, the foster care system, and more. There are lots of important and thoughtful nuggets of teen life presented here. And all of that is important, but at the end of the day, this is just a well informed and beautifully written story about a group of people facing insurmountable odds that nothing in life can prepare you for. It’s the book of our times.
These are a group of teens that have already been written off by the system. So when the world ends, they find themsleves alone, as they always have. And when the world says they are not worth saving, can they find a way to save themselves? There is a broad spectrum of representation in these pages, and at the end of the day, it is the characters, their relationships and their journey, that will keep you turning the page hoping that at the end of everything, they find a way to survive.
This book is engaging, thoughtful, heartwarming, entertaining and in the end, inspiring. I highly recommend it.
Filed under: Book Reviews
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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