Review: After The End by Amy Plum

May 12, 2014

Title: After The End (After The End #1)
Author: Amy Plum
Publication date: May 6, 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen (HarperCollins)
Genre: YA, Sci-fi
Rating: 
Source: Publisher (Edelweiss)
Amazon Goodreads | TBD
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.
How is it that even when a book has everything going for it, it still goes wrong?

Juneau has grown up living in the Alaskan wilderness with her clan. When the World War III broke out in 1984, a handful of people escaped the violence and traveled to Alaska to live away from the rest of humanity. Thirty years later, they are now a small clan, who have taught their children to fear the outside world, which is teeming with brigands and wasted land, filled with toxic nuclear waste. They never age, and the children are born with a starburst in one eye, a sign that they are one with the Yara, a super organism that encompasses the world and everything in it. Juneau has an especially close connection with the Yara and has the ability to manipulate what's around her to glean knowledge of the future and the present. In a few years, she will take over from Whit, her mentor, as clan Sage, and it will be her responsibility to protect her clan. But when her entire clan is kidnapped, she comes into her role a lot sooner than she imagined, and sets out to find them. It's not long before she discovers that there never was a war, and her whole life has been built upon a web of lies that is rapidly disintegrating. She finds that Whit, her lifelong friend and teacher may be the one behind the clan's disappearance, and now he's behind her. Other people are also looking for her, in a bid to use her for their own purposes, and Juneau is thrust into a forced alliance that forms between her and her enemy's son, Miles, as he travels with her on her quest to find her people, and with them, some answers.

For a story that starts with such an incredible twist, and a unique setting to boot, After The End really shouldn't have been such a fail. But sadly, it's pacing is so slow I actually skipped paragraphs, it's two main characters are a weird combination of really interesting and really shallow, and even after completing the book, I still dont know if it's science fiction or fantasy or a mixture of both.

Juneau, I honestly liked. She's a resilient protagonist (comes with the Alaskan territory, I guess) who I've come to believe will find a way to survive in pretty much any circumstance. Get this - She's thrown out into a whole new alien world after living like a cave-woman, she's the object of a massive manhunt, she's forced to travel across the country, she's abandoned, she's cheated, she's betrayed, she twists her leg and has to climb up a mountain in the dead of night. But she survives. This is no princess here. I did have a mini heart attack, though, every time she gave an entire gold nugget to people as payment. Those things are worth millions, kid!

After The End follows a dual narrative, with Miles as the other protagonist. Miles is a spoilt brat, the son of a rich man who owns a pharmaceutical company, and he's been kicked out of school for cheating on an exam. This isn't the first time he's gotten into trouble, and his father refuses to influence his way into Yale unless he works in the mail room for a few months. Miles' father is one of the people who are looking for Juneau, and when Miles overhears his conversations, he decided to go behind her himself, to try to impress his father. But once he finds her, she insists that has to take her on a trip across the country to where her people are being kept. He thinks she's crazy and delusional with her talk of Yara and what not, but takes agrees to take her, figuring he'll trick her into coming to his father.

I cant say I had much love for Miles after the way we got introduced to him, but I didn't expect to actually dislike him. While he had a disadvantaged entry into the story, he still had the rest of it to redeem himself, and the thing is, he doesn't. Not until the fag end, and by then, I knew enough of his character for it to not make much of a difference. I hated his duplicity, one that he insisted on continuing even after he came to 'like' her (dont start me on that. It's a whole other issue) and his immaturity (seriously, would you travel across the length of a country just to impress your father, especially when you have no plan?). His one redeeming quality is his sense of humour, which gave me quite a few laughs. But ultimately, with the lack of character development, I couldn't care less what happened to him.

Another problem I had with the book was that until about 80% of it, we still dont find out exactly why all this is happening. Till then it's just a bunch of people chasing a couple of teenagers, one of whom is a girl with super/magical powers (I still dont know which). Maybe this approach will work for people who like their books with an extra dose of mystery, but for me, while I like a good mystery, I still need to know what's happening and be able to keep the facts straight in my head. I was just confused for most of the book, to tell the truth.

To add to the snail paced narration, the romance that bloomed came into existence out of literally nowhere , just fell flat and had nothing leading up to it. Also, while I found Juneau as a character interesting, I felt like both her and Miles' narration lacked any depth and emotion. And lets talk about whether Juneau is genetically mutated or magical or does she have super powers? Because there's something about a drug (genetic mutation), she has a crow which acts suspiciously like a familiar and she uses rabbit parts to camouflage herself (witchy), and she uses objects to see into the future. So which is it?

At the end of the day, After The End was just a long, drawn out, staggered road trip that led nowhere.

BOTTOMLINE: Meh. I have nothing to say about this one.

The Social Potato: Kids on the run helps. Always. It usually makes for an exhilarating and exciting read and as someone who enjoys a good adventure/survival story, I didn’t feel differently about this book in terms of that. 

Deadly Darlings: The pacing was my main problem with the novel. I felt like Juneau was too quick to realize and get over things. It felt unnatural how easily and quickly her steps advanced.

Xpresso Reads: I enjoyed learning about the Yara and how she could use it to her advantage during her escape. It also had me wondering what eventual twists this story would throw at me. 

HOLDING QUOTE:
Doubt everything, Juneau. Doubt everything atleast once. What you decide to keep, you'll be able to be confident of. And what you decide to ditch, you will replace with that your instincts tell you is true. You've been living in a crystal tower that just had the foundations knocked out from under it. Which sucks. Nut now it's up to you to decide whether you're going to wallow around in the wreckage or rebuild something sturdier.