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Book Review: Let’s Call It a Doomsday by Katie Henry

Publisher’s description

An engrossing and thoughtful contemporary tale that tackles faith, friendship, family, anxiety, and the potential apocalypse from Katie Henry, the acclaimed author of Heretics Anonymous.

There are many ways the world could end. A fire. A catastrophic flood. A super eruption that spews lakes of lava. Ellis Kimball has made note of all possible scenarios, and she is prepared for each one.

What she doesn’t expect is meeting Hannah Marks in her therapist’s waiting room. Hannah calls their meeting fate. After all, Ellis is scared about the end of the world; Hannah knows when it’s going to happen.

Despite Ellis’s anxiety—about what others think of her, about what she’s doing wrong, about the safety of her loved ones—the two girls become friends. But time is ticking down, and as Ellis tries to help Hannah decipher the details of her doomsday premonition, their search for answers only raises more questions.

When does it happen? Who will believe them? And how do you prepare for the end of the world when it feels like your life is just getting started?

Amanda’s thoughts

I took July off from blogging for TLT so I could focus on some other projects. I read a lot of books too for all ages. Some of them I skimmed. Some of them I abandoned. A few I I burned through in a day or two. But this one I read every single word. I tried to not race through it because I didn’t want it to be done. I liked Henry’s other book, Heretics Anonymous, and think I loved this one even more.

Despite being an atheist, or, who knows, maybe because I’m an atheist, I read a lot of books, both fiction and nonfiction, about religion. I like novels that revolve around belief systems, that interrogate belief, that show me the inside of someone’s community, especially if that someone is grappling with what to believe and why. For Ellis, a Mormon, she’s working through reconciling what she feels/believes/who she is with her faith. She’s also facing some other really big issues, like an anxiety disorder that always makes her expect the worse, a certainty that the apocalypse is coming, and the fact that her new friend seems to be a doomsday prophet. It’s a lot for a 16-year-old to deal with.

Ellis feels like she’s spent her whole life disappointing her family and making everything worse. That’s not just her anxiety talking—that’s her mother. Her mom has NO TIME for Ellis’s anxiety, and, despite sending her to therapy for it, doesn’t seem interested in understanding at all what it means for Ellis. She’s just constantly exasperated by her. Her mother believes she has an attitude problem, not a mental illness. Ellis, who is super into disaster preparedness, thinks if she saves her family at the end of the world, they will appreciate her and finally understand all of her preparations. Her fixation on this grows more intense when she meets Hannah, who tells Ellis they were fated to meet. Hannah has visions of how the world will end, and though she does need help interpreting the visions, she does know that she and Ellis will be together when it happens. Ellis knows they have to warn everyone, but things go awry when she gets in trouble for her choices and may not be able to be with Hannah for the big event.

Ellis spends the duration of the book ruminating on belief, unbelief, love, understanding, prophecy, metaphor, and truth. Things are not always as they appear, and Ellis tries to understand that while also clinging tightly to the things she really needs to believe, no matter how true they are or not. She also begins to hang out with (and is possibly attracted to) Tal, a boy who has left the Mormon faith, and is bisexual. Conversations with and her attraction to him help her sort out of her own attraction to boys and girls (though she’s not ready to label that as anything yet). A really smart, thoughtful look at beliefs, anxiety, and survival. After two such great books from Henry, I will happily read anything else she writes.

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9780062698902
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 08/06/2019

Book Review: We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach

Imagine if The Breakfast Club was set not during Saturday detention but instead was set during the weeks leading up to the apocalypse.

 

In the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions, We All Looked Up is a story about Andy (the stoner punk who’s in the charmingly named band Perineum), Eliza (the artist with a reputation for being easy), Anita (the perfect good girl headed to Princeton), and Peter (the athlete having an existential crisis), who are brought together by an asteroid. The world is thrown into chaos when scientists decide that the asteroid is 66.6% likely to collide with Earth. Everyone has 7 or 8 weeks to just wait for this to (potentially) happen.

 

What do you do when it seems certain the world will end? Well, you start to reassess your priorities, apparently. You wonder if you’ve wasted your life. You shake things up. Andy decides that these four (plus a few other friends and not-really-friends) are part of a “karass”—that is, a group of people somehow linked together (which Andy takes from Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle). Together, they explore interests and relationships now that it seems like there’s nothing to lose.

 

Things take a dark turn as more time passes and Seattle (where the story is set) becomes rife with riots, looting, and general lawlessness. Food and other supplies become rationed, police are everywhere, and no one knows who to trust. Protests are planned, rallies are planned, and even a Party at the End of the World is planned. But plans are hard to carry out when chaos is swirling everywhere. Eliza lands in prison, along with many other young adults, and the other three work together to set Eliza and the other prisoners free. From here on out, everything is madness. Hook-ups, break-ups, fights with drug dealers, gunshots, and more all happen in the last days before the karass find out the fate of the world. Things get scary, violent, and gruesome. Even if the asteroid misses Earth, the lives of these teens will never be the same. 

 

Wallach succeeds in making this apocalyptic story stand apart from others on this subject. The tension is really ratcheted up in the last quarter of the novel, which is fitting, of course, as that asteroid is nearly here—I’d imagine things would become completely bonkers by then. The writing, characters, and dialogue are all exceptional. Wallach can really turn a phrase: “Today was just another shit day in a life that sometimes felt like a factory specializing in the construction of shit days.” Dark, funny, and philosophical, this will have wide appeal. Looking forward to more books from Wallach in the future.

 

ISBN-13: 9781481418775

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers

Publication date: 3/24/2015

Review copy courtesy of Edelweiss