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Released: January 25 2022
Genre: Young Adult
Published by Sourcebooks Fire
“Nijkamp beautifully weaves a tale of growth, overcoming assumptions, and defying society’s prejudices.”~ Under the Covers
Told from three vastly different perspectives, At the End of Everything by Marieke Nijkamp follows the teenage inmates at the Hope Juvenile Treatment Center as they’re abandoned by their caregivers and security guards at the onset of a plague, left to fight for their lives, discover their true strengths, and prove to everyone they are more than just their past mistakes.
Nijkamp did a fantastic job with all aspects of At the End of Everything. The writing and storytelling was fantastic and meaningful, the characters represented diverse backgrounds, and the three main perspectives were full of emotion and fear and uncertainty. However, no matter how good this book is, I know it will not be for everyone. Nijkamp does not shy away from a lot of topics that tend to make people uneasy, such as transphobia, abuse, ableism, racial profiling, assault, and the mass spreading of uncontrolled illness. While many authors or publishers have been avoiding illnesses and plagues during the pandemic, Nijkamp tackles those uneasy topics head-on in order to thoroughly illustrate how many, both juvenile and adult, have been forgotten or neglected during lockdowns. For those readers who pick up books in order to escape, the harsh realities portrayed in At the End of Everything may not be for you, at least not at this time.
For those readers who can handle some grim reflections of reality in their fiction, I definitely recommend this book. Our three main characters – Logan, Emerson, and Grace – all beautifully unfold their individual stories while having unique reactions to the hellscape evolving just outside their cells. None of the characters, main or secondary, are at the Hope Juvenile Treatment Center for the same reason, and each of their reactions to the global plague align with their personal journeys. Nijkamp gave each of her characters the time and recognition they deserved even as the adults in their own world forgot about them.
At the End of Everything was, at times, hard to digest. Obviously, the plague that takes out hundreds of thousands in the book mirrors our very real pandemic. While kids remain abandoned at the treatment center, watching their cell mates remain defenseless and dying, they have to listen to people on the outside deny the plague is real. This is a heavy story to read, and as the teenagers have little to smile about, so do the readers. But just like in our real-life pandemic, the people in this story find reasons to continue to dream despite how hopeless their futures may look.
Nijkamp’s newest release is at times gritty, stark, and desolate. When the unthinkable happened, the teenagers at Hope Juvenile Treatment Center were forgotten. This fictitious account may be too troubling for some and eye-opening for others. I personally thought At the End of Everything delivered just the right balance of desperation and hope. Their plague was realistic, damaging, and not everyone makes it. For readers able to enjoy such a story at this time, Nijkamp beautifully weaves a tale of growth, overcoming assumptions, and defying society’s prejudices.
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