At the End of Everything

Sourcebooks/Fire. Jan. 2022. 400p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781492673156.
Gr 9 Up–The guards and staff of the ironically named Hope Juvenile Treatment Center near Sam’s Throne, AR, start acting strangely. Then one night they’re gone, leaving the teens, who already felt forgotten and left behind, alone. After an initial escape, the group runs into a literal road block and are told about a virus. They head back to Hope to make another plan. Everyone is under lockdown orders; through some research, the teens learn that there has been an outbreak of pneumonic plague, which is extremely contagious with a high fatality rate. Some of the teens attempt another escape, while the rest choose to stay behind to try to create a sustainable living environment. Then the coughing begins. While this is not supposed to be a COVID tale, Nijkamp has crafted a story that is more realistic commentary on our current situation and less a thriller set in a post-apocalyptic future. There’s lots of representation among the cast of characters, and while none really receives the deepest dive, readers are given the opportunity to see the situation through the cast’s alternating perspectives. This story is unsettling and haunting but also filled with hope showing what happens when a group comes together to establish a community, a sense of belonging, and a certainty that didn’t exist before.
VERDICT A not-so-subtle nod to our current landscape that might be too soon for some teen readers.

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