Monday, July 20, 2015

Audiobook Review: After the End by Amy Plum

Title: After the End
Author: Amy Plum
Narrator: Emily Rankin & Graham Hamilton
Publication Date: May 6, 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen
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She’s searching for answers to her past. They’re hunting her to save their future.

World War III has left the world ravaged by nuclear radiation. A lucky few escaped to the Alaskan wilderness. They've survived for the last thirty years by living off the land, being one with nature, and hiding from whoever else might still be out there.

At least, this is what Juneau has been told her entire life.

When Juneau returns from a hunting trip to discover that everyone in her clan has vanished, she sets off to find them. Leaving the boundaries of their land for the very first time, she learns something horrifying: There never was a war. Cities were never destroyed. The world is intact. Everything was a lie.

Now Juneau is adrift in a modern-day world she never knew existed. But while she's trying to find a way to rescue her friends and family, someone else is looking for her. Someone who knows the extraordinary truth about the secrets of her past.

Little known fact: I spent four years of my life in Alaska while stationed at Elmendorf Air Force Base. I didn't get to explore very much of it, but I did see some pretty cool things and meet a lot of awesome people while I was there, and I worked with a lot of people who had spent time in "The Bush," better known as the place where all the remote villages are. I've heard really interesting stories, but I never got to go myself.

I say all that to say that this book immediately caught my interest. A book about a post-apocalyptic village cult and its aftermath? Yes, please!

The main characters in After the End are Juneau (named after Alaska's capitol) and Miles, the son of the rich head of a drug company. What can I say about Juneau? Well, she's kind of a bitch. Really a lot, actually, and I just didn't care much for her. I tried to take into account that she had been raised in an environment that was very hostile to outsiders, but the way she treated Miles was totally unacceptable. She was rude and demanding and generally thought very highly of herself. I can appreciate that she was tough and resourceful too, but I feel like the cons outweigh the pros where Juneau is concerned.

Miles, on the other hand, I liked. And pitied. I could understand why he made the decisions he did (for the most part). However, I thought that he was way too gung-ho at times, almost unrealistically. I know he was on a mission, but there were so many times when I think a normal person would have just gone home. The worst part was I didn't get the romance.

Pro: No love triangle.
Con: Some serious instalove.

Juneau and Miles were together all of five minutes before they were suddenly making out and in love or whatever and... come on! When are YA authors going to stop with this trope?

The big bad(s) in After the End aren't as diabolical as some, but were actually perhaps the most realistic thing in the entire book. More than one group is after Juneau throughout the book and for legitimate reasons. They weren't super terrifying, but they did drive up the tension in all the right places.

This book was pretty much one big road trip that had a lot of ground to cover settings-wise. I loved the descriptions given of the Alaskan wilderness! While I've never been out in the middle of nowhere, I feel like it could be really easy to describe it as "white and flat with some mountains." Amy Plum did a great job of putting their surroundings onto paper. The author did an equally awesome job with every other setting. The world building was a high point of this book!

The storyline of After the End was truly unique and exhilarating! I LOVE Village-esque stories like this one where the main character discovers her tiny home isn't the only thing left. It's really one of my weaknesses and Amy Plum did a fantastic job of handling Juneau's discovery of modern society. I loved it! I also loved her insane evasion of the bad guys who were following her!

My problem is with the mythology of the book. The Yara (mystical, magicy, Mother-Earthy thing) was just too ridiculous for me. You mean to tell me that some guy read some books on some random religions and managed to piece one together that gives people magical powers? Um... nah. I don't buy that. I will say that I liked the partial de-mystification that happened, but I'm just really having a hard time suspending my disbelief far enough to accept the whole Yara business.

I liked After the End, I did. But I didn't love it. There were too many problems between the characterizations and the really weird magical elements that just didn't work for me for this to be a five star book. I feel like if it had all come out in the end that the Yara was a load of hooey, I might have felt differently about this one. Still, a unique premise and halfway great plot makes this two and a half stars and still (possibly) worth reading!

°o°  Notes on the Audiobook  °o°
Emily Rankin and Graham Hamilton were some of the better voice actors I've come across! I have a tendency to be really annoyed by whiney girl voices, but Emily did a great job of sounding like a normal human being while reading this book! I'd definitely check out more books recorded by either of these narrators!