Khanh the Killjoy

Nothing hurts!

After the End - Amy Plum
Beneath me lies a city. It is not in ruins. It isn’t decimated by war and poisoned by radiation. It is a thriving city with massive glass buildings glistening in the late-afternoon sun. This is not a postapocalyptic wasteland. Where am I? What is going on?

Whoa. WHOA.

I really liked this book---but do take my words with a grain of salt, this is a woman who actually LIKED The Village after all, but the premise of falsehood was revealed to us at the very beginning of the book. This book was so strange at first, and I had no idea what I was reading. I do not go back to the summary of the book once I started, and consequently, the first few chapters had me going "WHAT THE ACTUAL HECK IS GOING ON HERE?"

As it turned out, after the beginning disorientation, this book became such a interesting, fun book, with a compelling mystery and characters whom I greatly enjoyed. There is no insta-love. There is a lot of miscommunication. This is fish-out-of-the-water, think Tarzan plopped into the middle of New York City. It was a rollicking adventure, and I enjoyed every step of the way.

The Summary: Juneau is a future Sage in her village. It is a tiny community, composed of survivors after the disastrous events of World War III that wiped out all of mankind. It has been 30 years since those events, and her village is entirely self-subsistent. They have to watch out for the remaining survivors of the apocalypse, brigands. They are in close touch with the spirits of nature, they are tapped into the power source of Mother Earth, The Yara. It is a peaceful, quiet life for this band of survivors, as they try to raise their children. The children in her village were all born with starbursts in their eyes.

Suddenly, we are in Los Angeles. It is 2014, and Miles is the wealthy son of a pharmaceuticals CEO. He has gotten in trouble for the very last time, and his father is fed up with it. Yale is on the verge of revoking his acceptance, and Miles is desperate for his father to help him regain his admission to his dream college.

However will these lives intersect?

Juneau returns to her village from a hunt to find it destroyed, razed to the ground. All her loved ones are missing, all remaining is a message from her father. "Juneau, Run!" She sets out to find her father, her friends, her mentor Whit. Juneau consults the Yara, she sees the signs, she knows who to ask. A crazy homeless woman may not be who she seems, anything could carry a message, and Juneau, with her training, knows where to look. The signs tell her to go to Seattle.

Miles is working in his father's mail room. He is desperate, bored, seething to get his father's attention and time, to beg him to help him with his admission to Yale. He sees an email in his father's inbox. His father is searching for a missing girl, one with a starburst in her eyes. Bingo. Miles comes up with an exceptionally brilliant plan (to him) to find the girl. She is likely in Seattle. Once he gets to Seattle...the plan doesn't seem so brilliant after all. It is downright dumb.

But as I walk I begin to get an idea of the scale of the city and start to realize how stupid my plan is. It would be like trying to spot a friend at the Super Bowl without having a clue where their seat is. How in the world am I going to find one girl in the middle of this enormous city? I am well and truly fucked.

It is fate. The Yara knows all, and it draws Juneau and Miles together, improbably. Miles doesn't know what Juneau is capable of, he only knows that he needs to get her back to his father, in order to get back into his graces. His first impression of Juneau is not a good one.

You’d think she was seeing everything for the first time. Like she’s Tarzan or something—raised by wolves in the deepest, darkest forest. And then there’s the fact that she keeps stopping people and asking their name.

Luckily for Miles, the Yara told Juneau that he is the person she has been waiting for. The one who will help her with her quest to find her family, her mentor, her clan. They join forces, and Miles acts as bewildered chauffeur to a very, very strange girl. There are a lot of trust issues. He thinks she's fucking nuts.

I’m lying here in a tent, pretending to be asleep but actually fearing for my life as I watch a bunny murderer have a conversation with our campfire.

She thinks he's a fucking moron.

He is likely the stupidest boy I have ever met.
He has lived what Dennis would call “a fortunate life, unfortunately for the rest of the world.” The blissfully ignorant spawn of the rich.

These two will have to learn to trust each other, and believe in one another. There is a large barrier separating them, that of credibility. He will have to trust in her abilities. She will have to trust him with her secrets.

“In 1984, at the outset of World War III, my parents and some friends of theirs escaped from America to settle in the Alaskan wilderness.”
“There was no World War III,” I interject.
She gives me a frustrated look. “Are you going to listen or what?”
I lean back on my elbows and listen.

They will have to find out why Juneau is so valuable to the men pursuing her.

The Characters: The characters in this book are so believable. There are major, major trust issues here as Miles struggles to adapt his very modern skepticism to the powers that Juneau supposedly possesses. I believe him. I understand his skepticism. We live in an age where spirituality and powers are dismissed offhand, and I laughed when he is freaking out because this strange, strange girl is talking to the birds, to crazy people, and into a fucking fire. For all he knows, she is insane, and I love seeing his very slow and utterly credible journey into believing in Juneau and trusting in her.

most people I know would have a hard time believing that you weren’t...I don’t know...crazy.”
He presses his index finger to his temple and opens his eyes wide. “Or on drugs,” he continues. “Wait, no...I have another theory. You were brainwashed by your hippie cult into thinking you have magical powers. In your head you’re like a cross between...I don’t know...Superpower-Flower-Child and Harry Potter.”

Juneau is not stupid. She is completely, utterly competent. She is brave, she is a fighter, she adjusts. She knows not to trust Miles completely, because he has an ulterior motive. No boy would suddenly obey her every command and follow her off into the wilderness for no reason. He is naive, he may not be trusted, but the Yara pointed him to her, and she has to rely on it, as well as her own instincts.

The Romance: Ever so light, and quite believable. Their relationship develops slowly from mistrust to trust, to friendship. I felt like the rush from SHOULD I TRUST HIM/HER into I WANT TO KISS HIM/HER was too fast, but overall, the romance was very well done.

My Qualms: There is a spiritual source called the Yara in this book, and while it was well explained, I felt like it very very deus ex machina at points. It solved a lot of problems in the book that might have been completely improbable, at points, like the fact that Juneau and Miles always finds each other, no matter where they are.

Overall, my reservations did not greatly decrease my enjoyment of the book, and I liked this book immensely.

Quotes were taken from an uncorrected proof and subject to change in the final edition.