Today, I'm reviewing the intriguing After the End by Amy Plum. It's definitely not what I expected in terms of a dystopian - but it's just as intriguing and just as amazing.
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published May 6th 2014 by HarperTeen
Format read: E-ARC via Edelweiss
Synopsis via Goodreads:
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.
Yes, the synopsis makes it sound like it's centered on the idea of a post-apocalyptic world - but I would say that this is definitely a book that's more of a paranormal story with certain dystopian elements that add to the storyline. It's intriguing and different. With that being said, let's get on with this review!
Things that worked:
The bookish things: (writing/plotting/world-building)
However, the writing sucked me in immediately into the story. The book alternates between Juneau and Miles, and Plum creates distinctive voices and backgrounds for both. This helps build up both the world of the two of them, while also showing a stronger contrast of what they think about each other's worlds.
Outside of Juneau and Miles, Plum has created a solid story that explains Juneau's world and how it came to be, including more fantastical elements. All in all, I was pretty impressed with how thorough the backstories were for all of the characters.
I can't really give away anything else without spoiling the story, so you'll have to read it!
The deeper issues:
Educators, parents and readers will likely be most impressed with Juneau's ability to recognize that not everything she's been told is true - something that a lot of teenagers will likely struggle with at some point in their lives - but to also accept that fact and move on. Miles also undergoes a lot of typical teenager issues - e.g. the inability to get along with his dad; struggling to define himself, that I think other readers will appreciate as well.
Bottom line: there's a lot for readers to relate to and learn from, and I applaud Plum for being willing to include all of those issues in her story.
Without giving any spoilers away, she's left the perfect amount of unanswered questions and loose ends, to have readers begging for the sequel - and trust me, I know some who are already asking!
Things that didn't work/Things to consider:
Plum seemed to sort of alternate between one of two explanations: 1) Juneau is able to do her brand of "magic" because her clan has figured out how to tap into the world's power through isolation and training, or 2) they can do their "magic" because of more scientific means.
Both are interesting possibilities, but I think that a single, more concrete direction for explaining Juneau's abilities would have made the "magical" aspect more easy to swallow for a lot of readers. I've seen a lot of reviews where readers have expressed surprise (and confusion) at the paranormal element and where it can possibly go, so yes - clarity is a good thing.
(Which, if you think about it, is pretty much how most paranormal stories start, right?)
While I did have some reservations with Plum's lack of a thorough explanation for the Yara, or the fact that the relationship between Juneau and Miles was a little rushed, I still really enjoyed the book a lot. So I would definitely recommend this to past fans of Plums, and for readers of paranormal/dystopian fiction who are looking for something a little different.
About the author:
Amy grew up in Birmingham, Alabama before venturing further afield to Chicago, Paris, London and New York. An art historian by training, she can be found on most days either daydreaming or writing (or both) in a Parisian café. Visit her at http://www.amyplumbooks.com and check outhttp://www.youtube.com/user/revenantc... for videos and extras.