Books can be predictable. And the farther you venture into a particular genre, the more true this becomes. For instance, many of the teen fictional series on the market involve a teen with a troubled past who finds the strength to overcome their struggles and find true love in the end. Yes, this an oversimplified summary, and no, not all books in this genre follow this synopsis. But many do! The book I just finished, however, offers a refreshing twist and a unique plot, making for a pleasurable read.
After the End is not your typical post apocalyptic novel. Juneau, an Alaskan native, has lived her entire life in the frozen wilderness surrounded by her clan. Her peaceful, rugged life is suddenly stolen from her when Juneau discovers that there never was a World War 3 and that the outside world was never destroyed. When her people are taken from her, she is forced to take a life-changing journey to not only save her family, but also to learn the truth about every lie she’s been told. And, according to the Yara, her only hope of accomplishing this goal is with the help of Miles, a privileged city boy.
When I first began reading this novel, I was uncertain, to say the least. Maybe it’s because of all the “post apocalyptic” books in circulation, but I had imagined the story going in a much different direction that I found it did. At first, I wasn’t sure if I would like the particular direction Amy Plum had decided to go. Would it be interesting? Would it hold my attention? Would there be enough action? If you’re looking for an action thriller, this may not be exactly what you’re looking for. While there are many “action” scenes in the book, it always felt like the focus was placed more on the characters’ individual stories than anything. I do enjoy a good action thriller, but I came to really appreciate this book for what it was. Although Juneau’s story begins in the Alaskan wilderness, she quickly moves the reader along into several other locations such as Seattle, California, and Utah.
My heart stops, and then as I look down at the ground it slams hard against my ribs, forcing a cry from my throat. In the soft dirt floor, in my father’s careful block lettering, is written: JUNEAU, RUN! (After the End, p. 15)
Although many of the facts are quickly presented at the beginning of the story, there were several pieces of information that the author decided to withhold. You may feel that you have all the facts and you know how the story is going to progress and eventually end, but thankfully, the author reserved a few surprises for us allowing you to enjoy the new information shortly before cutting off the novel, reserving future secrets for the next book in the series.
The main driving point behind After the End is the mystical power, the Yara. While it did lend a unique feature to the book’s plot, it did become a little overbearing at times. Yes, it is interesting and offers a satisfying quality for those who enjoy mysticism; however, the story did, at times, become overly focused on the “power” itself rather than developing the characters and the plot. Decent-sized portions of the book were taken up with discussions and explanations of the Yara. While it certainly played its role, I couldn’t help but desire for the next thing to happen, something exciting and maybe an explosion or two.
Let me just start of by saying I love both of the protagonists in After the End. Juneau and Miles present themselves as unique characters that propelled the story forward. The author never conveyed the characters as relying heavily on their attraction toward each other. While there is a definitive love interest, it never seemed to consume their thoughts, emotions, or actions.
Unlike so many other female protagonists, Juneau demonstrates herself to be different, both in appearance and personality. Sporting short cropped hair and an independent spirit, she effortlessly stands apart from the stereotypical, fickle female protagonist that has bombarded teen fiction.
I throw my pack in the three-foot hole and then lower myself down into it, lying on my side with my pack at my stomach, curling up fetal-style around it. Reaching up to my pile of evergreen branches, I sweep the stack over and around me until I–and the hole–am completely covered. And then I wait. (After the End, p. 196)
Miles, the complete opposite of Juneau, has grown up in a rich lifestyle in the city. When their paths become intertwined, he finds himself trekking across the country with a strange girl he doesn’t trust, attempting to stay one step ahead of her pursuers. Miles’ story was nothing short of an interesting one. Readers quickly learn that Miles has been struggling in his relationship with his father. As a result, he continues to seek trouble and has little regard for his own future–until he discovers an opportunity to prove himself. As Miles learns that things are not as they seem, readers enjoy watching Miles become a strong, dynamic character, as he progresses from a discouraged, troubled teen trying to find his path in the world to a confident, young adult pursuing his path when he finds it.
I can’t stand this much longer. I’m in way over my head. It’s one thing playing driver for a schizo teen who thinks she’s being chased by dangerous people. It’s a whole other thing when said dangerous people are actually chasing said teen and, by proxy, me. (After the End, p. 127)
Much to my delight, this is overall a “clean” novel. Sensuality was kept to a minimum because for so much of the story Juneau and Miles are uncertain of each other. Besides a kissing scene, there is little to be said about sensuality. Language was also kept to a minimum; however, Miles did “grace” the book with a few strong words. Yet, even with that being the case, After the End has very little content and makes a great book for teens and adults alike.
At the conclusion of the novel, I walked away feeling satisfied withe the overall tone of the book. Both the plot and characters were enjoyable, creating a unique twist on a class subject. Although this is not an action title and there are those occasional slow moments, After the End is beautifully written and presented an intriguing story. If you haven’t picked this one up yet, it’s definitely worth the read.