Well… colour me surprised.
I don’t know what I expected from After the End (though probably not much after reading the reviews of Die for Me) but I definitely didn’t expect a book that had me glued to the pages, awake most of the night reading, and laughing out loud on almost every page in the middle section. I had braced myself for “yet another dystopia” and got something more like an entertaining, fast-paced urban fantasy.
Survival. That’s all that’s important. My own survival, and that of my father and clan. I will do anything to guarantee it. And I will use whoever I need to achieve it.
This book starts in the Alaskan wilderness where Juneau has spent her entire life in a small, isolated community. World War III has completely destroyed the world we know and left only this small group of survivors who have managed to stay alive by being at one with nature. Or… that’s what Juneau has always been told anyway.
But one day she returns from a hunt to discover that her clan has completely disappeared. Using the powers of nature that she has been taught, Juneau sets out to find them. However, she soon discovers that there is more to the world than what she’s always been told. Finding out that the people she trusted the most have been lying to her is a hard pill to swallow, but Juneau has even bigger problems. The people who kidnapped her clan members are after her and she has no idea why. Chased down everywhere she goes, Juneau is forced to team up with an unlikely companion in order to find her family.
I have to be honest: I can see straight away why this book won’t be to everyone’s liking. Almost all of the exhilarating action occurs in the first and last quarters of the book – this is the heart-pounding, ohmigod-how-will-they-get-out-of-this portion of the book. Despite dystopias being forced down our throats left, right and centre, I found this story extremely compelling and I loved how different the two main characters were. But, yes, the biggest chunk of the book in the middle is about a road trip full of bickering, basic survival/camping skills and the development of the relationship between Juneau and Miles.
And I loved it.
I am so not a big romance person. Or at least not in books that are supposed to be action-packed science fiction. But I found the banter between Juneau and Miles truly hilarious. I had to cover my mouth to avoid waking the whole house up with my giggling. They’re just such different people. She’s a hardcore hunter who’s grown up in the wilderness and knows all about survival and taking care of herself… and he’s a guy who got kicked out of high school for cheating on an exam. She thinks he’s stupid. He thinks she’s crazy. Their conversations were a delight to read.
“The guys who are following you . . . are they dangerous?” Miles asks finally.
“Well, normally I would say that Whit wouldn’t hurt a flea. But from what Poe here told me—”
“Poe?” Miles interrupts.
“The raven,” I say.
“You named the bird?” Miles asks, his voice tinged with a note of hysteria.
Yet another reason for him to think I’m crazy, I think, and wonder again if that’s not actually a good thing. “Back in Alaska, we named all our animals after literary figures. It was something our teacher Dennis started, so I was thinking that with Edgar Allan Poe’s poem about the raven—”
“Yes, thank you . . . I got the reference!” he snaps. His face is flushed red, but he does this deep-breathing thing and calms down a little. “Okay, first of all, we’re not keeping the bird. So don’t name it. I am not driving you to wherever it is we’re going with a wild animal in my backseat.”
“He’s not wild,” I protest.
“Has it shit on my shirt yet?” Miles asks, his nose wrinkling like he doesn’t really want to know the answer.
I ship them so hard.
And more than this, I really liked the idea behind the story. No spoilers, of course, but I just thought I’d mention how pleasantly surprised I am to find that I can still fall in love with a dystopian book. For me, this book was incredibly addictive and the characters shone with a rare level of personality. My only real issue was with the ending, which seemed a little abrupt. But, oh well, who cares? I really enjoyed it.