After the End
by Amy Plum
Expected Publication Date: May 6, 2014
Length: 352 pages
Obtained Via: I received an electronic advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This influenced my final opinion of the book in no way.
Format Read In: E-ARC
View at the Traffic light:
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.
The premise of After the End sounded quite intriguing. A girl who thinks she’s part of a lucky clan that managed to survive World War III, a war that destroyed the rest of the world before she was born? Sign me up. The snyopsis hints that Juneau learns this is not the case early on, and that she goes on an adventure to find the truth. It’s a great start to a story, but unfortunately, the story never really quite lives up to that synopsis.
For one, Juneau may be the main character, but After the End is told in a split point of view. I have mixed feelings about this narrative device that seems to be cropping up everywhere lately, but I know some authors who pull it off well and it ends up making the story stronger. I didn’t find this was the case in After the End. Juneau’s point of view is well-done, really getting into the mindset of someone who has lived in nature all her life only to find that there are still sprawling cities all over the continental US. Everything, even how to buckle a seat belt, is foreign to her. Her struggles are sometimes humorous and sometimes quite heart-breaking when you remember everything that Juneau has lost.
The other point of view, however, belonged to Miles. Miles is the son of a wealthy businessman. A businessman who just happens to be searching the entire western seaboard for Juneau. It’s unclear until much later in the book why Miles’ dad is worried about finding Juneau, but he’s convinced she has information that his pharmaceutical company wants. Miles is tired of being ignored by his Dad and responds by doing things like bringing alcohol to school, cheating on test, etc. He ends up getting kicked out of school. When he realizes that his dad is looking for Juneau, though, he decides to go find her himself to get back on his dad’s good side.
Miles is eighteen-years-old, but his voice reads much younger. He’s often irritating and lazy, and his character has almost no redeeming qualities. Of course, what ends up happening is that Juneau and Miles have the weirdest road trip ever, and that’s the majority of the book. It’s not the most exciting stuff. They make camp, Miles acts like a spoiled child, Juneau feels at home in nature. They drive some more. Then they make camp again, repeat. This is suppose to be character development, and yes, the characters grow and change, but on the whole it’s rather. . . lackluster.
Despite that, I kept reading After the End because there would be glimpses of a great story lurking just underneath this road trip. There’s a sort of paranormal aspect in After the End–Juneau has been taught to read the earth, can do small amounts of divination, and some sort of magic in small doses. She can do things like access a raven’s memory to see where it’s been. This was a fascinating concept, and After the End explored it thoroughly. It also highlighted the contrast between what Juneau has always considered normal and what Miles considers normal.
However, that never quite made up for some of what I consider the faults of this book. Of course, two teenagers trapped in a car today and what happens? A little bit of romance. I cannot imagine a romance with less chemistry than one between Juneau and Miles, and I’ll leave it at that.
The real disappointment of this book was the ending. While After the End had it’s fault, I probably would have liked it and given it three stars if not for the ending. One, all the big questions that were raised at the beginning of the book are still there. Yes, it is a series and it’s common for some of the problems and questions to still be there, but every. single. one. had not a bit of conclusion. There’s still no real idea why Juneau’s entire clan was kidnap. There is some information about why Miles’ dad wanted to find Juneau–which felt out of place in this story and almost took it from slightly paranormal to almost science fiction–but not in any believable way. And then, the cliffhanger happened. The cliffhanger that was quite obviously there just to lure the reader into buying the next book. No, thank you. Nothing to see here. Move along, thanks for playing. The absolute weirdness of the last forty pages made After the End a major disappointment.
While there were a few interesting threads of After the End, there was too much in the way of it being the great series starter I hoped it would be. The premise was fascinating, but the strange and cliffhanger ending spoiled most of the enjoyment. 2/5 cupcakes.