cover image At the End of Everything

At the End of Everything

Marieke Nijkamp. Sourcebooks Fire, $18.99 (400p) ISBN 978-1-4926-7315-6

The young adults who inhabit private company–run Hope Juvenile Treatment Center in rural Arkansas lead highly structured, strictly supervised lives, so it comes as a shock when they wake one morning to discover the doors unlocked and the brutal staff gone. A group heads on foot for the nearest town but finds the road blocked by armed soldiers, who order their retreat: the state is on lockdown thanks to an extremely contagious, frequently fatal respiratory illness. After an incident when a boy rushes the barricade, his companions return to Hope and update the others. Eight opt to escape and brave the wilderness; the remaining 22 stay put, divvying up chores and rationing supplies. They assume someone will come for them, but as time passes, provisions dwindle and the disease spreads, triggering desperation and discord. Three white teens narrate, including one nonbinary character and one neurodivergent twin who communicates via a personal sign language; the supporting cast is ethnically diverse. Palpable fear and paranoia contribute to breathless pacing, while Nijkamp (Even If We Break) employs a clever setup and keenly wrought characters to sensitively explore topics of ableism, racism, transphobia, and juvenile justice reform. Ages 14–up. Agent: Suzie Townsend, New Leaf Literary. (Jan.)