Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Booktalks in a Box: It’s the End of the World as We Know It

Booktalks are a great way to get teens reading.  Here is an overview of booktalking for you – you’ll want to check out several of the links provided there, including those to Nancy Keane and Joni Richards Bodart, masters of the fine art. As part of a new regular feature, tween/teen librarian from Arizona Kearsten is sharing some of her booktalks with us.

End of the world/your world

I’m obsessed with end-of-the-world stories. I love what a collapsing society does to those left behind to clean up: do they hold on to what once was? Rebuild? Throw out every old idea, and just go crazytown? Teen fiction plays with this theme very well, letting you experience what it might be like if your whole world changed.

Sometimes the end of the world comes via natural disaster as in Mike Mullin’s Ashfall and Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer. 

In Ashfall, fifteen-year-old Alex’s bad attitude has won him a weekend at home alone in Cedar Falls, Iowa, while his parents and sister head off for a vacation in Illinois. With visions of hours spent playing World of Warcraftdancing in his head, he’s just settling down at his desk when his world explodes around him. The supervolcano beneath Yellowstone National Park has exploded, debris raining down, ash covering everything.  Alex’s hometown quickly becomes deadly, as emergency services are rendered useless, and chaos reigns.  Alex must rely only on himself as he travels on foot to Illinois to find his parents and sister in this suspenseful story of surviving after a hellish natural disaster.

Life as We Knew It looks to space for its disaster. When a meteor strikes the Earth’s moon, many are relieved, believing they’ve been saved – it didn’t hit the earth, after all. Their relief is short lived, however, as it soon becomes clear that the meteor knocked the moon out of its normal orbit, causing world-wide tsunamis, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, killing millions and making Earth nearly inhospitable for people like sixteen-year-old Miranda and her family.  Miranda chronicles her struggles with starvation, danger, and fear in a journal, giving the reader a first-hand view of her scary world.

In Tomorrow, When the War Beganby John Marsden, and in Ilsa J. Bick’s Ashes, the end of the world comes from an act of war.

Imagine coming home from an awesome camping trip with friends to an eerily empty town: no adults, no notes…nothing.  Then imagine finding out that your families have been rounded up into prison camps, because while you were gone, your country was invaded and you must now decide: turn yourself in and join your families; head back into the wilderness to hide; or, take your chances and fight back. In Tomorrow, When the War Began, Australian teenager Ellie writes of what happens when she and her friends decide to fight back in a deadly, desperate bid to save their families and themselves.

In Ashes, terminally ill, 16 year-old Alex is backpacking alone through the Michigan wilderness when the Zap happens: one minute she’s considering her death by brain tumor, the next she’s trying to survive the most terrifying pain she’s ever faced. Bombs detonated above the Earth’s atmosphere have resulted in devastating electromagnetic pulses, destroying electronics, wiping out communications, and killing millions. She’s suddenly faced with a completely new world, in which most adults and teens have died, and those who haven’t died have…changed. Into something even more terrifying.

And sometimes, as in Goneby Michael Grant, the end of a teens’ world is unexplained…for now.

One afternoon, as fourteen-year-old Sam tries to stay awake in History, when, without warning, his teacher disappears.  Across town, adults have vanished: food half eaten, cars suddenly driver-less, words left half-written on a chalkboard.  The children left behind, fourteen and younger, are confused and very scared. Some kids wander, others begin to take care of the toddlers and babies, and others take advantage of zero adult supervision and seize control. But how safe is a town run by bullies? With no phones or internet, how can they get help? And what on Earth can they do about the dangerous powers a couple of kids have begun to develop?

Kearsten’s Bio: I am a Tween/Teen Librarian in Glendale, AZ, at the same library I used as a teen. By the time I got my MLS from the University of Arizona in 2004, I’d been working in Glendale libraries for eight years and tried out circulation, adult reference, and children’s services before finding my home working with teens. I am the unofficial book club queen, coordinating and moderating three very different book discussion groups for tweens and teens aged 8-18, and am happiest when talking with teenagers about awesome books. I’ve spoken about book groups, teen reading confessions, and the importance of graphic novels in libraries at Arizona Library Association conferences, for the Maricopa County Library Council’s Continuing Education program, and at the ultimate geek prom, San Diego Comic Con. My darling husband understands that I won’t answer questions posed while I’m reading, and I lose my 9-year-old to the comic books whenever she comes to work with me. Some of my favorite authors are Tamora Pierce, John Green, Lish McBride, Jonathan Maberry, Jim Butcher, Elizabeth Peters, and Mo Willems. I prefer my genres ‘blended’ – an end-of-the-world paranormal mystery in a Victorian/steampunk setting? Yes, please! — and I’m always up for anything involving zombies….unless it’s about dating zombies. That’s just too scary for me.


  1. Monument 14 is pretty good. I also enjoyed Masque of the Red Death.

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