At The End Of Everything
reviewed by Pam Guynn
Marieke Nijkamp’s new novel, At the End of Everything, is an emotional ride with moments that range from heartbreaking and desperate to suspenseful and hopeful. This young adult / teen novel is well-written and character driven.
The setting is mainly the Hope Juvenile Treatment Center near the fictional town of Sam’s Thorne, Arkansas. The teens housed there aren’t wanted. They’ve been sent there for a variety of reasons, but they had little help from any family or concerned citizen to keep from being sent to the facility. One day they wake up and realize they’ve been abandoned. There aren’t any guards, cooks, or other staff. After initially thinking this is their chance for freedom, they discover a pandemic is affecting the world outside and they’re on their own.
The story is told from three points of view: Logan, Emerson, and Grace. Logan can’t talk except through a made-up sign language that he uses with his twin, Leah. Logan reads and writes well, while Leah talks for both of them. Emerson is a non-binary person with authority, gender identity, and commitment issues. Grace is outspoken and has anger issues. All three play pivotal roles in the story, but readers get to know several other characters as well. As supplies dwindle and the plague affects the residents of the Center, the group has to decide what actions should be taken, who can be trusted, and how to survive.
The three main characters are reasonably well-developed; they’re flawed, but show growth over time. Several teens show amazing strength of character and courage while some show less desirable traits. It would have helped to have more in-depth information on the teen’s backgrounds. However, the reader does get bits and pieces. Who will survive? Will they have food and medical supplies?
The book is emotional and intense. The teens had already been abandoned by family and friends. Now, it seems even those that are supposed to rehabilitate them have left them on their own. Additional themes include food supply issues, a desire to feel safe, homelessness, fear, trust, anxiety, discrimination, gender identity, leadership, caring for others, stealing, assault, movement restrictions, the loss of normal routines, and much more.
The author does a great job of portraying the hardships and lack of amenities as well as the friendships and struggles faced by the teens. This story hooked me immediately and kept me interested throughout. However, I would have liked a little more closure at the end in an extended epilogue.
Overall, it’s suspenseful and there are a few surprises along the way. While this is my first book by the author, I want to check out her other novels.
SOURCEBOOKS Fire and Marieke Nijkamp provided a complimentary digital ARC of this novel via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. Opinions are mine alone and are not biased in any way. Publication date is set for January 4, 2022.