Instructions for the End of the World
by Jamie Kain
Publication Date: December 8, 2015
Length: 224 pages
Obtained Via: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my final opinion of the work.
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
View at the Traffic light:
He prepared their family for every natural disaster known to man—except for the one that struck.
When Nicole Reed’s father forces her family to move to a remote area of the Sierra Foothills, one without any modern conveniences, it’s too much too handle for her mother, who abandons them in the middle of the night. Heading out to track her down, Nicole’s father leaves her in charge of taking care of the house and her younger sister, Izzy. For a while, Nicole is doing just fine running things on her own. But then the food begins to run out, the pipes crack, and forest fires start slowly inching their way closer every day. Wolf, a handsome boy from the neighboring community, offers to help her when she needs it most, but when she starts to develop feelings for him, feelings she knows she will never be allowed to act on once her father returns, she must make a decision. With her family falling apart, will she choose to continue preparing for tomorrow’s disasters, or will she take a chance and really start living for today?
Instructions for the End of the World is a gripping, young adult novel that explores family, friendship, and love in the midst of the most difficult and dangerous circumstances.
Nicole and Izzy’s father prepared them for how to survive an apocalypse of almost any kind, but the real disaster the two sisters have to survive is the crumbling of their family unit. When their father moves them to a remote area, their mother puts her foot down — and then takes off in the middle of the night. When their dad goes to find her, Nicole is tasked with taking care of the house and her Izzy. Meanwhile, their new house happens to be next to a spiritual commune. One of the teenagers that lives there, Wolf, has a run-in with Nicole and they start striking up a friendship(or more) of sorts.
Instructions for the End of the World is told through four POVs: Nicole’s, Wolf’s, Izzy’s, and Laurel’s, another teenager who lives in the spiritual community. All four POVs are distinct, but Laurel’s is completely unnecessary to the story, so I found myself growing irritated with her POV(luckily, it doesn’t come up much). Wolf’s POV is a little strange and probably not at all what most readers are used to, but I found myself growing to enjoy his perspective. However, possible romance aside, what’s really at the heart of Instructions for the End of the World is family, so it’s natural that I found Nicole’s and Izzy’s POVs to be the most intriguing. Both characters have strong flaws(many readers will probably find Izzy in particular grating, though I did sympathize with her), but I was still rooting for them to come out okay on the other side of their family drama.
Instructions for the End of the World is short and gripping, even though not much actually happens in it. Some of Nicole and Izzy’s day-to-day survival and sister dynamics grew to be monotonous, though the arrival of new characters breaks that up some. I flew through this book and I think other readers will too — even though the plot lags, there’s something in the writing that makes you want to keep turning the pages. The survival aspect isn’t as intense as I expected (Nicole and Izzy typically aren’t in any real danger. At one point a water pipe bursts, and then there’s a wildfire, but that’s about all), but I found the family dynamics much more interesting anyway.
However. . . . there were some aspects of this book that troubled me. Perhaps “aspects” is too great a word, because they weren’t plot points or character traits. Most of the time, it would just be one line in a phrase of description that made me uncomfortable, but enough that I noticed this as a trend. At one point, a girl’s face is described as “vaguely Asian”(what does that even mean?). Later in the book, one of the characters also thinks that a female character is putting herself in a position to sexually be “taken advantage of”, which feels like a particularly sore point since the book deals with issues of sexual consent quite starkly in other places.
Instructions for the End of the World is a story about messy and complicated family dynamics, which I appreciated. At times, the plot lagged and some of the descriptions left me slightly puzzled, though I did enjoy the dynamic between the characters(even when I didn’t enjoy the characters on their own as much). Instructions for the End of the World definitely felt new in YA, but failed to quite satisfy me. 3/5 stars.