Review: After The End by Amy Plum

After The End Amy Plum
After The End Amy Plum cover

Title: After The End 
Author: Amy Plum 
Series: After The End #1 
Genre: Dystopia, YA 
Publication date: May 6, 2014 
Rating: ★★★★ 

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.

It’s hard to place this book within a certain genre. This book is situated in the modern world, but does not fit in the ‘contemporary’ category. It has some paranormal/fantasy components, but it is neither in my opinion. One could also remark it has some dystopian influences, but it’s hardly a dystopia. What is it then? I have no idea. Let’s start by putting it in the surprisingly good category.

This book doesn’t have a very good rating on goodreads so my expectations weren’t too high. I usually agree with the public opinion, but in this case I think the book deserves better. It is told in a dual first person POV. We live the story through the eyes of Juneau and Miles, two teenagers who have absolutely nothing in common. Absolutely nothing.

Juneau grew up in the wild of Alaska and is, like her friends and family, named after one of its more important cities. She lives in prehistoric conditions. Literally. Her village is nothing more than a group of yurts where she and her clan have built an existence. She wears animal skins for clothing, she hunts for food, she builds fires to keep warm and most importantly, she trains with her mentor Whit to one day become the clan’s sage. She lives like this because thirty years ago all of civilization was destroyed by world war three. Nothing of the former world remains. Or that’s what she believes.

“Doubt everything [...]. Doubt everything at least once. What you decide to keep, you'll be able to be confident of. And what you decide to ditch, you will replace with what your instincts tell you is true.”

Miles on the other hand is a normal teenager. Or at least as normal as you can be when your father owns one of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in the world. He is spoiled, lazy and he has no ambitious besides getting higher levels in videogames. Otherwise he’s perfectly ordinary.

Their lives collide when Juneau one day comes back from a hunting trip and finds her world destroyed. The people of her clan have been brutally taken from their homes, their huskies slaughtered. She’s left alone with a single warning of her father: RUN. So that’s what she does. And as she leaves the safe environment of her childhood, she discovers that WWIII hasn’t left the world as damaged as she’d been told. In fact, she starts to think there might not have been a world war three at all. Juneau doesn’t know anything about the modern world, but she has some tools to help her.

She has a strong connection to nature and nature helps her. As Whit’s apprentice she has learned to read and to conjure. She has learned to manipulate nature and to see things. And of these messages has told her she needed Miles help to save her clan. She shouldn’t trust him, but she needs him. So they start a dangerous journey together.

All of this was interesting. We slowly learned what kind of persons both Miles and Juneau were, what Juneau’s connection to nature meant, how much she could do. How the relationship between Miles and Juneau changed from hostile to a cautious friendship. They were both likable in their own way. So were the story and the development of it.

The book has a rather fast pace and the writing isn’t great, but decent enough. Amy Plum manages to make Miles and Juneau sufficiently different characters and the dynamics between them are fun.

What bothered me was Juneau’s impossibly fast adaption to the workings of the modern world. After a week of watching Miles drive, she was able to do it herself (without any further instruction) and there was more of that. The things we take for granted, should have bothered her more. Or at least she should have had more difficulty to use them.

Put that aside and this was an enjoyable read. You won’t be blown away, but you should have fun reading this. It’s definitely creative.

“Life is easier in black and white. It's the ambiguity of a world defined in grays that has stripped me of my confidence and left me powerless.”

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