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Endling #2: The First

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
Endling #2: The First Book Poster Image
Friends battle extinction in heart-filled, thrilling sequel.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

While the Endling series takes place in a fantasy world, it involves the theme of species extinction, and the plot offers plenty of examples how that might come about, in the book's world and our own.

Positive Messages

Strong messages of kindness, friendship, loyalty, responsibility, and courage, as well as finding unexpected strengths in yourself and others in the moment of need. Also endurance, perseverance, and being able to think in new ways to help out and make things better.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Byx and her human friend Khara are strong girl role models, highly relatable as they face terrifying challenges and extremely cheer-worthy as they find imaginative ways to overcome their enemies and aid their friends. Their friends, of various species and personalities, show strong cooperation and loyalty. And each one's particular talents turn out to be essential, including those of Renzo, orphaned as a child and surviving by theft ever since. (Byx feels guilty about the things they have to steal to survive, and leaves some kind of payment, often a jewel.)

Violence & Scariness

Besides species extinction, there's plenty of violence and danger, including biting, slashing, hacking, drowning, devouring, imprisonment, enslavement, and more. It's not presented with gratuitous gore, but it's not portrayed lightly either, and some characters meet violent deaths. As a leader, Byx, who desperately misses her murdered family and pack, has to make decisions almost sure to cause death or harm to beloved members of her team, and has to live with the results.

Language

A character masquerading as a dog pees on the shoe of a human who's annoying her. In one scene where the friends are in a makeshift shelter during a storm, the fact that the horses are peeing and pooping a lot makes the whole thing more disagreeable.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The First is the middle installment in the Endling trilogyby Katherine Applegate (The One and Only Ivan). The series is an intense, imaginative, thought-provoking fantasy adventure exploring, among other things, the theme of species extinction. The narrator/main character Byx is a dairne -- a species that looks doglike but has quite a few other capabilities, including being able to tell whether someone's lying. Her entire pack has been slaughtered (in Book 1) by a human warlord determined to kill them all off. Now she and her friends -- some human, some other fantasy animal species -- are on a quest to see if other dairnes still exist, or whether Byx is indeed the last of her species. There's a lot of deadly violence and scary dangers along the way, including biting, slashing, hacking, drowning, devouring, imprisonment, enslavement, and more. It's not presented with gratuitous gore, but it's not portrayed lightly either, and some characters meet violent deaths. There are also difficult decisions, heavy responsibility, and thought-provoking questions about deep issues like interspecies connection and interdependence. And throughout, there are irresistible, complex characters whose bonds with one another make all the difference.

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What's the story?

After the massacre of her family and other dire events of Book 1, young Byx finds herself THE FIRST of her kind to do quite a few things, including befriend humans. Byx fears she's the last of the dairne species, but after she sees what she thinks is another dairne in the far distance, she embarks on a search to see if any others of her species survive. Terrors and perils are plentiful in a chaotic, violent world, between scary creatures and the human warlords bent on exterminating everything inconvenient to their plans. But Byx has friends, human and otherwise, who accept her as their leader and commit to their quest.

Is it any good?

Newbery Medal-winner Katherine Applegate brings a lot of heart, empathy, and page-turning suspense to this exciting installment pitting determined friends against species-exterminating warlords. As young Byx the dairne and her loyal friends pursue the faint glimmer of hope that she's not the sole survivor of her species, they face terrifying dangers, suffer great losses, and build the strongest of bonds. As The First unfolds, they're also forced to grow quickly into heavy responsibility, tough decisions, and roles they never would have imagined as they try to save their species, their world, and their friendship from forces bent on destroying them.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the friendships among characters of different species in The First. What other stories have friends from different worlds, countries, or cultures? What kinds of challenges do the characters face? How does their friendship affect they way they deal with them?

  • Some of the characters in The First resemble particular animals in our world -- but with interesting enhancements usually associated with other species. If could create a character who was this sort of hybrid, what would it be like?

  • How do you think you'd feel if you were the last member of your species?

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