Thursday, December 3, 2015

Review: Instructions for the End of the World by Jamie Kain

Title: Instructions for the End of the World
Author: Jamie Kain
Publisher: St Martin's Griffin
Published Date: 8 December 2015
Buy: Amazon | The Book Depository | Dymocks Australia

I received this book through NetGalley from St Martin's Press for review.

From the author of The Good Sister comes a gripping novel about two sisters who learn that there are things in life—love, loss, and self-discovery—that you simply can't prepare for.

He prepared their family for every natural disaster known to man—except for the one that struck.

When Nicole Reed’s father forces her family to move to a remote area of the Sierra Foothills, one without any modern conveniences, it's too much too handle for her mother, who abandons them in the middle of the night. Heading out to track her down, Nicole’s father leaves her in charge of taking care of the house and her younger sister, Izzy. For a while, Nicole is doing just fine running things on her own. But then the food begins to run out, the pipes crack, and forest fires start slowly inching their way closer every day. Wolf, a handsome boy from the neighboring community, offers to help her when she needs it most, but when she starts to develop feelings for him, feelings she knows she will never be allowed to act on once her father returns, she must make a decision. With her family falling apart, will she choose to continue preparing for tomorrow’s disasters, or will she take a chance and really start living for today?

Instructions for the End of the World is a gripping, young adult novel that explores family, friendship, and love in the midst of the most difficult and dangerous circumstances.
(summary from Goodreads)

Instructions for the End of the World is a stark portrayal of family set against a backdrop a little outside the norm.

What I mean by that is simply that Nicole and Wolf's family lives are not the usual suburbia and high school settings. Wolf lives and goes to school within a spiritual commune and Nicole's father has uprooted her family to live off the land, essentially forcing them to survive as doomsday preppers. The issues Kain delves into - divorce, sex, drugs, relationships - are the usual, just offset by a unique and slightly quirkier world building. Kain's writing has a crisp and somber tone to it that adds an intensity to the story. Tension builds slowly, so that there are certain expectations - I was waiting to see what happened, I wanted to know how these characters and their stories would end. The thing is they don't, really. I guess I was waiting for further disaster, for some major upheaval, but that only really occurs early on and the rest of the story kind of plods along in a quieter intensity. On the one hand, this is life, but on the other, I finished Instructions for the End of the World not entirely satisfied. Part of it is Nicole and Isabel's father. I was waiting for a little more insight into his motivations. Often his doomsday prepping is described as crazy or such, and I think an opportunity for more depth was missed here. I just can't imagine things staying as they are at the end of this book and so I've left it with a sense of "that's it?"

That feeling surrounds Kain's characters too. For the most part I liked Nicole and Wolf. Their point of view chapters were intriguing, sometimes beautiful and heartfelt, sometimes insightful. I enjoyed their relationship though at times it felt too much too fast. Nicole deals with her father issues, in a way, as does Wolf with his mother issues, but again I can't help feeling like I wanted more. I'll tell you what I could have done with less of and that's Izzy. For me, Izzy was neither likable or relatable. As a contrast to Nicole, it works. But Izzy's point of view chapters frustrated me. Her voice was certainly distinctive, in that it grated on me. Save me from the immaturity and selfishness. My biggest issue is that Izzy showed no character growth. Something major and changing occurs to her personally, and for a moment I thought something would come of it, but then she claims she wants to run away to survive as a model or something and it all came crashing back down. Bleugh. Kain also has chapters told from Laurel's point of view and I wasn't overly fond of them either. Laurel is another teen that lives with Wolf in the commune, and honestly, I just didn't much understand her purpose? She didn't feel necessary to the story, especially as a narrator. I can't help but wonder if Kain simply figured having two point of views from one side of the property line required two from the other? I think Instructions for the End of the World definitely has its pros and cons. In some ways the narrative stands out, but in others it feels like there's excess that could be cut down to delve deeper into what matters and to providing a better sense of resolution. 

Kain's writing style made this book for me. Where the narrative is not everything I hoped it would be, it still firmly held my attention from start to finish. 



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