Series: After the End # 1
Published by HarperTeen on May 6, 2014
Genres: Science Fiction
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.
Writing thrillers and horror movies and books must have been a lot easier prior to the late 90’s/early 2000’s, before everyone over the age of ten had a cell phone. Think of a film like The Blair Witch Project. It would have been a much different (and much shorter) film if the characters had been able to whip out their phones to call for help or to open up their GPS.
Phones play a big role in After the End, and I can’t help wondering if the author wishes we were back in the olden days of no cell phones, because the constant mention of phones throughout the story, combined with one character’s inexplicable failure to use one when it would have benefited him, was hard to understand.
But before we get to those problems, you should know that After the End gets off to a fine start. We’re introduced to Juneau who lives in seclusion with her “clan” in Alaska following the devastating effects of WWIII thirty years before. They live a wilderness life, with no electricity and no connection with the outside world. Juneau’s only knowledge of the world prior to the war comes from old history books and the tales of the clan’s elders. While hunting one day, she returns to find her village deserted and showing the signs of a battle. When Juneau sets off to attempt to rescue her family, she finds herself in the bustling little city of Anchorage, and she learns a shocking truth. There was no war. Her clan had been lying to her for her entire life, and Juneau is even determined to find them and to learn why.
This set-up gave the author a lot to work with, and I wish she had kept her focus solely on Juneau’s gradual discovery of this new world. Instead, the POV alternates between Juneau and Miles, the son of a pharmaceutical bigwig who is trying to find Juneau. We don’t know what he wants with Juneau, but we know he’s up to no good. Miles overhears his father making plans to capture this unknown girl, and with the flimsiest of excuses, Miles sets off to find her on his own.
This is just the first of many unrealistic behaviors and coincidences that strains belief. When I read these kinds of stories, I must make a conscience decision to overlook these problems, or I risk ruining the experience of the book. After the End skates by, but barely. I liked Juneau, but I had problems with the fact that she adapted almost immediately to the “new” world. Miles was annoying, at best, and he seemed stuffed into the story just to give Juneau some romance and a road trip sidekick. At one point, Miles and Juneau separate, and the story became much more enjoyable as a result.
Considering that this is the first in a series, I was surprised by how many questions were answered and mysteries were solved. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but since I wasn’t exactly gung-ho on this story, I’m probably less likely to feel the need to pick up the sequel. If we can somehow boot Miles from the sequel, I’d be more interested in giving it a chance.
Note: I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.