At the End of Everything
by Marieke Nijkamp
Imprint: Sourcebooks Fire
Release date: January 25, 2022
Teens at the Hope Juvenile Treatment Center are trying to survive within the secured, heavily guarded walls of Hope, but when the guards do not return, inmates take the opportunity to escape. When met by armed soldiers, they learn a highly contagious disease has the nation on lockdown and they must return to Hope. Survival is no longer about time to serve, but without supplies and a virus now within Hope, this group of incarcerated strangers must decide who to trust if they are going to survive.
The survivalist plot of living through a pandemic is paired uniquely with teens in a juvenile treatment center, a group often mistreated or forgotten. The story has a diverse group of characters showcasing different ethnicities, family/foster care backgrounds, sexual identities, gender identities, and those who are deaf or hard of hearing. The plot is full of action both dealing within the treatment center and later intensifies with the virus itself. The knowledge about the virus is comparable to COVID with little known at the beginning and coping with that fear. With the voices of teens from different backgrounds, readers will feel connected to these characters’ growth and heart wrenching decisions. There are disturbing moments of abandonment based on gender identification, assault, and death; however, it is the friendship, community, and a sense of a created family and home that readers will remember. The appeal of a pandemic story is strong and the characters will keep teens reading.
This is a good suggestion to teens who enjoy survivalist stories or dystopian, apocalyptic titles that keep the action moving. Throughout the plot, characters’ diverse backgrounds are revealed and the reader is reminded one event does not define a person. Teens who enjoy reading of hardships, and certainly those looking for novels relating to the pandemic, will enjoy Nijkamp’s stylistic writing and dealing with difficult situations.
Readers looking for teens who face real difficulties or overcoming stereotypes will enjoy this large cast of characters and how they unite for their own survival. Similar titles focused on survival, and the grotesque, are Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne and The Loop by Ben Oliver.
– Sarah Carnahan
Other Nominated Titles:
- Survive the Dome by Kosoko Jackson (March 29, 2022)
The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination.
Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten.