At the End of Everything

The trigger warning at the beginning of this book sets the tone for a tale that balances the weight of injustice with the lightness of belonging. Set in a fictional rehabilitation facility for violent youth in the Ozarks, the lines between right and wrong and good and evil are blurred when a frightening pandemic leaves a group of teenagers to fend for themselves against an invisible and unknown enemy. With parallels to the COVID-19 pandemic and including a multiracial and multi gendered collection of characters, this heart wrenching story is one that readers will consider long after it ends. Please see my full review below.


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Where is the line between right and wrong when it comes to surviving a deadly pandemic? The young people living at Hope Juvenile Detention Center are all there under the pretense of being prepared for a successful reentry into society after intense circumstances left them in the hands of the law. Rules help to keep everyone in line at Hope, even when those rules do not apply the same way to every resident. One day, the guards appear distracted, and when the morning ritual fails to take place as usual, the residents of Hope discover they have been left alone to fend for themselves in the face of an invisible enemy. Life and death hang in the balance as each character comes to terms with who they truly are and their place in society outside of Hope’s walls.



This dialogue-centered story is perfect for young adult readers who have ever felt as though they are not seen as clearly as others in their world. While the characters in this book all come from some kind of troubled background, their innate human tendencies are recognizable no matter where readers themselves are found. A content warning at the beginning alerts sensitive readers to the presence of weighty subject matter within the narrative, and while this material exists throughout, it is presented in a tasteful and appropriate manner.


Told from several different perspectives, this narrative gives readers direct insight into each of the primary characters’ individual experiences within the context of the greater story. The truth about their pasts come to light at intentional moments within the novel, and the question of justice in the face of a pandemic is one that is repeated throughout. Uniquely presented, the story incorporates narrative, clips from news reports, and transcriptions of telephone conversations, which all help to provide a more complete picture of the events taking place within the story. Young adult readers will be riveted from the first moments, empathizing with each of the characters involved as their tales unfold.


Cinematically written, this book is easy to imagine taking place in the mind’s eye. Not only are the effects of the pandemic itself immediately palpable, but so too are the interactions among the varied personalities within the narrative. A variety of backgrounds are included, weaving together a rainbow of skin tones, abilities, and gender identities to create a tapestry of initially disparate humans that connect over a shared tragedy. At the end of the book, readers will discover some of the author’s intent in writing the story along with resources for learning more about how different communities have been treated during health crises like COVID-19. This is a powerful and thought-provoking story for young adult readers.



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