Instructions for the End of the World by Jamie Kain

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

I was originally drawn to this book for its title; I love a good apocalypse story and I at first assumed that this would be one of hose stories. The description told me straight away that I was wrong and, actually, I’m glad because this turned into something so much more. Nicole and Isabel’s parents are gone; their mother having left soon after their father relocated them to a ramshackle Victorian house in the middle of the forest. Their father has gone after her, leaving the girls to fend for themselves against dwindling food, leaking pipes and fast approaching wildfires.

The title comes from their father’s fictional book, a survivalist guide to coping in what a considers an imminent apocalypse. Nicole has grown up with her father’s training, Isabel having rebelled against it, leaving them theoretically well prepared to be left alone, but in no way willing. Nearby is Wolf, raised on a spiritualist commune and desperately trying to forge a life of solitude for himself.

I loved this book, and read it in one evening (plus the time I was in the queue at the post office this morning). It’s definitely a YA book, but the writing is excellent and the story has the right mix of teenage angst, childhood rebellion and darker themes. Think old style fairy tales where the kids are mysteriously without parental supervision, although in this case the kids have all been deliberately abandoned or failed by the adults in their lives.

That was perhaps one of the strongest themes in the book: rebellion against the failings of adults. Nicole’s father is a hypocrite whose teachings fail to take into account the most likely scenarios. Wolf’s mother is an addict whose spiritualism has reached new heights,without being reflected in her actions. Together, their children try to find a balance between what they’ve known and what they are learning to want for themselves.

It was a very unique book, and I don’t think I’ve read one I can compare it too. The voice of each narrator was strong and distinctive, the story felt complete and satisfying, I really enjoyed it.

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