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The World Ends in April

Book review by
Joly Herman, Common Sense Media
The World Ends in April Book Poster Image
Madcap tween drama focuses on impending doomsday.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Eleanor knows a lot about survivalist strategies, and she teaches what she knows to her friends in a club that she creates. Information about past asteroid impacts, dinosaur extinction theories, the Earth's atmosphere, and the environment. Section in the back with resources about asteroids, impact statistics, survival and readiness, internet resources, and internet safety.

Positive Messages

Making friends can be hard, but people can surprise you. Even if parents don't always know what's wrong, their support can be helpful. Making mistakes might feel like the end of the world, but things do get better. If things don't improve in your life, tell someone so you can get help. Friends can stay in touch even if they move on. People can disagree and still love each other. Internet safety is important for kids. Once you give a person the information and tools that they need, you have to let them choose what to do next.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Adults have an interest in supporting kids in this story, but they also know that kids need to learn their own lessons. Mack and Eleanor have a tight bond. Eleanor helps Mack physically navigate the world, but she respects his desire to take risks like scaling a climbing wall at a climbing gym. Mack sticks with his best friend even when the entire school turns against her.  

Violence

Eleanor's mother has died (not part of the story's action). The story's end-of-the-world elements could be frightening to sensitive readers. A detailed description of presumed life after an asteroid impact includes "lawlessness, disease, filth and constant fear." A character gives a girl an "I-want-to-punch-you-in-the-throat-look." A character breaks a girl's nose with a basketball, though it's unclear whether it was done on purpose. It's said that guns and ammo are part of survival, though the adults are supposed to be in charge of that in a survival scenario. 

Sex
Language

Characters talk about cuss words. "It was the f-word." "Crap."

Consumerism

Many brands are mentioned. Netflix, iPad, Walmart, McDonald's, Harvard, Marvel, Mentos, Krispy Kreme, Chromebooks, YouTube, Wikipedia, Fluff, Rice Krispies, Brownies/Girl Scouts, Amazon, eBay, Siri, Pokemon, Coke, NBA, Stanley Cup, Klondike, SweeTarts, Milk Duds, M & M's, Skittles, Oreos, Fiat, XBox.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the focus of The World Ends in April is preparing for the end of the world. A scientist has predicted that an asteroid will hit Earth, and kids react to this news, ramping up preparedness. Twelve-year-old Eleanor contacts the scientist, a stranger, via email, and he communicates back, even though her widower dad doesn't allow it. Eleanor's Grandpa Joe conducts drills for survivalists, such as testing her "BOB" (bug-out bag) to see whether it's filled with necessities for surviving the apocalypse. Eleanor's fervent beliefs cause her to do things she normally wouldn't, and she gets suspended from school because of her actions. The end of the world as we know it (called TEOTWAWKI) is explored in a mocked-up timeline of destruction, which includes people dying from disease, robbery, guns, and lack of food and structure. Kids in the story take this potential threat seriously and react in various ways to the end of the world; the subject matter may be upsetting for younger or more sensitive readers.

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What's the story?

In THE WORLD ENDS IN APRIL, veteran author Stacy McAnulty (The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl, Goldie Blox Rules the School series) takes the topic of the world ending and throws it into middle school, where various scenarios play out. Seventh-grader Eleanor Dross, who's being raised by her widower father, has been well prepped for the end of the world by her Grandpa Joe, who gives two-way radios and military-grade MRE's (Meals Ready to Eat) as holiday gifts. His bunker is equipped with walls of rations, rope, cord, rain-catching water basins, tents, presumably guns and ammo, and all the things he thinks he'd need to keep the family alive after the end of the world. Eleanor, whose loner demeanor and self-administered haircut keep her stuck in the "loser" social bracket of her class, has only one friend -- Mack -- who may soon be going to a school for blind kids, where his needs will be better met. Eleanor doesn't feel there will be much to look forward to without her only friend around. That may be reason enough to believe that the end of the world is coming. But what happens if it doesn't?

Is it any good?

Funny, well-paced, and at times sad, this doomsday story will appeal to media-savvy kids who see how internet trends affect their social scene. But instead of gossip spreading by means of Snapchat or Insta, in The World Ends in April, the story that rocks Eleanor's middle school is about an asteroid predicted to make impact in a few months' time. Kids will appreciate McAnulty's humor -- i.e. Mack names his cane "Candy," and Eleanor's blue-dyed haircut makes her look like a "sad mushroom." That said, some of the hard-line disaster-prepping content could be a little frightening for sensitive readers, because it really feels like the end of the line.

A parallel that isn't drawn in the book is that Eleanor's real grief and feelings of desperation may have to do with the loss of her mother, who's never really mentioned. This might be a missed opportunity to explore an obvious topic. But Eleanor's grit, her desire to survive, her dad's tender helplessness, and the lovely friendship she has with Mack, make this story an enjoyable read -- with some end-times food-for-thought to keep it real.  

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about trusting a source for information on the internet. In The World Ends in April, Eleanor believes wholeheartedly in information she gets from someone she thinks is trustworthy. What news or information sources do you trust, and why?

  • Eleanor's dad puts parental controls on her computer when he finds out she's been communicating with an older man, so she goes to a friend's house to check on a computer without restrictions. Did her dad do the right thing? Are parental controls helpful?

  • Londyn's parents are getting a divorce, and her mom shuts herself in her room, depressed. Eleanor's mom died several years ago. What other books or media can you think of that deal with loss and grief? How do they help?

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