Not the End of the World Book Poster Image

Not the End of the World

Horrifyingly realistic portrayal of ark for teens.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Though the women are subservient to the men, they are also the only ones with any sense. Noah's family members are fanatics, contemptuous of the world and each other, and content to let humanity perish.


The human race drowns, bodies are floating everywhere, Noah's family beat survivors away with clubs, Shem beats and kicks his wife, a baby is killed by a mink, Noah orders his daughter killed.


A 12-year-old boy and 13-year-old girl are married. It is implied that they have sex.

Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Some wine drinking and drunkenness. A 12-year-old is given quantities of wine before being forced to marry.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this is an unrelentingly horrific portrayal of what it might have been like on the ark: many bodies, brutal behavior. The author raises complex issues of morality and faith, and provides no answers. Those with strong religious beliefs may find the portrait of Noah and his family as fanatics bordering on lunatics offensive.

What's the story?

The voyage of Noah's Ark is related by the inhabitants, both human and animal, but primarily by Timna, an imaginary daughter of Noah. The story begins with the rains, and soon a giant wave sweeps over the earth. But not everyone drowns right away, and Ham and Shem must spend their time beating survivors away from the ship, an act that troubles Timna and her younger brother, Japheth.

Before they leave the family kidnaps Zilla to be a wife to 12-year-old Japheth, neither of whom are happy about it. So when they find a young boy and his infant sister clinging to the stern of the ship, saving them seems the only thing they can do to rebel against the horrific godliness of the rest of the family. But keeping them secret among the animals in the bowels of the ship becomes more and more difficult, as both humans and animals become increasingly sick in mind and body during their lengthy confinement.

Is it any good?


This is not your children's Bible stories. Our predominant cultural images of the Noah's ark story have always been of the gentle lions with the adorable lambs, all in pairs, on a clean ship with good people for a miraculous journey. But author Geraldine McCaughrean brings it to life as a real horror show. Until the end, this story is one of unrelenting horror and degradation of mind, body, and spirit, and the author pulls no punches.

The fetid mountains of dung, the fleas and lice and mice (none of which are just a pair for long), the noise and filth and especially smell -- all are rendered vividly. But McCaughrean goes far beyond this undeniably realistic picture to examine the psychological toll exacted upon the younger human passengers, forced to see the deaths of dozens and know that millions more have died. This is a tough read, and not for the squeamish, but could push teen readers to think more deeply about familiar Bible stories.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the realism of this view of life on the Ark. What would it be like to have creatures of every sort imprisoned together in a small space for months? How could they be fed and cared for? How would the humans survive? Is there any way that Shem can be seen as a good man, worthy of saving while the rest of humanity perishes?

Book details

Author:Geraldine McCaughrean
Book type:Fiction
Publication date:January 4, 2006
Number of pages:244
Publisher's recommended age(s):13 - 17

This review of Not the End of the World was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Parent Written byteacher/mom June 27, 2011

Not for light reading

While thought provoking, this might raise questions you are not ready to answer with younger children. Noah's family is hardly portrayed in a positive light. I found myself questioning many things. Readers need to have some developed critical thinking skills to be able to read and process the scenarios this book proposes. This does not simply expand the bible story we are familiar with... it turns it on its head and inside out in sometimes uncomfortable ways. I strongly recommend parents read this before or with their child to be able to discuss it in depth.
Teen, 14 years old Written bybibliophile April 9, 2008


This is a wonderful rendition of Noah's Ark. Made me really think past the story I've always been told and see what hardships Noah's family had to go through (I'm a Christian, so I really appreciate that this author wrote something that helps us relate to the people from the Bible). Definitely a must-read.
Kid, 11 years old November 6, 2011


I am a mature 11 year old. Is this ok to read for me?