A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
The Author’s Note includes a short list of recommended titles about teens interacting with the criminal justice system and the history of mass incarceration. The book also includes contact information in the United States and Canada for Trans Lifeline, "a trans-led organization that connects trans people to community, support, and resources they need to survive and thrive."
Putting aside your differences, your biases, and even your dislike of someone and working as part of a team can bring you through even the toughest and most challenging times.
Positive Role Models
Grace, who's been scarred by years in the foster system, finds herself the group's unlikely leader and steps up to the challenge. Logan, who has always prejudged and underestimated because she's nonverbal, doesn’t let her disability stop her from contributing to the group's survival. Casey and Emerson take on two of the hardest and grimmest jobs during the pandemic (Casey runs the infirmary and Emerson digs graves) and carry them out with compassion and sensitivity.
In the Author’s Note, Author Marieke Nijkamp explains to readers why she decided to make book's three main characters (Logan, Emerson, and Grace) White. "I did so because I do not want to take space away from a writer of color. And I don’t believe the experience of teens of color in the U.S. criminal justice system is my story to tell." Emerson is nonbinary and goes by "they and them." Logan is nonverbal and communicates in a sign language she and her twin created. It's noted in passing that Casey has "brown skin." Isaiah Wood, who's Black, is called "The Professor" because he knows everything about computers. Khalil Nassif, Mei Fujita, and Sofia Rodriquez are minor characters in the story.
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Violence & Scariness
Soldiers shoot a kill a teen at a roadblock. There's a graphic description of a raccoon being trapped and then killed. Some of the teens at Hope have committed violent offenses (arson and aggravated assault ) and there's a rumor that one of the bullying students at school had killed another boy for no reason. Bullying students badly beat a teen and threaten another with a knife. A girl remembers being on the streets and finally finding what she thought was a safe place, but learning it came at a cost -- "stolen kisses and with touches, until the touches became something else."
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Teens regularly use profanity ("f--k," "a—hole," "bulls--t.")
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
There's a brief mention of a teen who'd been arrested for selling meth out of his high school basement.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know the Marieke Nijkamp’s At the End of Everything is set during a deadly plague that's spreading rapidly around the world. When the teens at the Hope Juvenile Treatment Center (which offers neither hope or much treatment) discover the guards and staff have abandoned them, their only hope of survival is to find a way to work together. Not an easy task for a group of teens the juvenile justice system has labeled "delinquent." But they put their differences aside and take on the daunting challenges of finding food, caring for their sick friends and burying their dead. One main character is nonbinary and another is nonverbal. Teens regularly use profanity ("f--k," "a—hole," "bulls--t"), and violence or the threat of violence runs throughout the story. Soldiers shoot a kill a teen during a dispute at a roadblock. Some of the teens at Hope have committed violent offenses (arson, aggravated assault) and a girl remembers paying for a safe place to stay with "stolen kisses and with touches, until the touches became something else."
Is It Any Good?
This dark dystopian survival story tackles tough issues around juvenile justice reform and discrimination against people who are disabled or nonbinary. While At the End of Everything is well-crafted and exciting, the story of a plague that kills your friends may be a tough read during the time of a global pandemic in which teens have seen their lives and schools disrupted by COVID-19.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.