Published: March 8th, 2016 by Amulet Books
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Page Count: 456 plus acknowledgements and an author's note
Part of a series? According to the author, no.
Got via: The Library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound
Summary (from goodreads): January 29, 2035.
That’s the day the comet is scheduled to hit—the big one. Denise and her mother and sister, Iris, have been assigned to a temporary shelter near their hometown of Amsterdam to wait out the blast, but Iris is nowhere to be found, and at the rate Denise’s drug-addicted mother is going, they’ll never reach the shelter in time.
Then a last-minute encounter leads them to something better than a temporary shelter: a generation ship that’s scheduled to leave Earth behind and colonize new worlds after the comet hits. But each passenger must have a practical skill to contribute. Denise is autistic and fears that she’ll never be allowed to stay. Can she obtain a spot before the ship takes flight? What about her mother and sister?
When the future of the human race is at stake, whose lives matter most?
Review: My hand got so sore writing this. I had so much to say! I enjoyed this so much and I wanted to write a full review of it despite the lack of computer. Honestly I was half writing this just because I want to talk about how gorgeous the cover is, but also if I put this in a post with three other books, this one is so going to hog the whole spotlight. I liked this so much, guys. I just wanna make you all read it immediately.
Guys. I legit don't think I have anything to complain about. I read straight through Tangled and that is one of my favourite movies. That's saying a lot.
Plot Talk: This is one of those books where like the actual plot sounds like nothing when you - or at least when I try to explain it, but it's still, like, everything you would want in a book's plot. It's basically described in the summary. Denise needs to find her sister and save their family. Along the way she learns how to protect and advocate a little more for herself, and it's tight and exciting and I wish I could write plot this good. I can't even write plot descriptions this good.
Characters: If this is a sign of what other books by the author are like, Duyvis has a real talent for characters. Denise is so ridiculously relatable and I just wanted to give her all the cats she could ever want. She's wonderful. And she's black and autistic and that's awesome. The book is very frank about how those things intersect and when they make things harder for Denise, especially because of other people's bigotry. It's incredibly honest about these things, too. And I just can't help thinking of the kid who's going to see themselves in her and how happy I am for them. Her struggles are so heartfelt and I honestly can't even imagine how much it's going to mean to the kid who reads this and sees Denise stimming and having meltdowns and having limitations but still doing amazing, brave things. A great deal of the book talks about usefulness and which people would be saved in an apocalypse and how privilege would affect that, and I so, so love how the book handled that theme. Denise is valuable because she's Denise, not despite her autism. It's wonderful.
As are basically all the other characters. Seriously, so good at characters. I felt so conflicted about Denise and Iris' mother, and I think the balance Duyvis found was a very difficult one. Addiction is a disease, but it's not okay to hurt people, and it's important to protect yourself. It's a delicate line to walk, and I personally think the book did an excellent job portraying that dynamic while staying very respectful.
And the relationship between Denise and her sister is amazing. Spoilers ahead (but some of you are going to want to know this spoiler, and it's important), but I need to talk about this so much. The amount of nuance and how they both change and grow in their time apart is so amazing, and yet they still come back together and support each other. It's a beautiful relationship, and I loved how imperfect and sometimes hard it was. It worked so well, and dude. I've been wanting to write about sisters lately and this only made that worse. That's a mark of a good book.
Also, Iris is trans! (And bisexual! And doesn't die. I feel like this is an important spoiler because, yeah, context of the rest of the world and media out there.) And the book isn't about how hard it is for Denise to have a trans sister or anything. It's about the world ending and the people around for that. I can't find any reviews from trans reviewers talking about the representation (link me to any if you know of them and I'll add them to this post!), and keep in mind I'm cis, but I'll talk about why I think the rep is good. The book never, ever tells us Iris' deadname, almost like it's telling us it's not our business, and Denise is fiercely defensive of people treating her sister well. There's a flashback to when they were kids, before Iris transitioned, and it continues to use Iris' proper pronouns. Plus it's adorable, honestly. And kind of a middle finger to people who say you can't explain things like this to kids. I won't spoil that, but it's very sweet.
Iris also isn't a unicorn, by not being the only queer character. Another trans character shows up, albeit only briefly (and honestly that's still more than many books) plus a solid handful of other queer characters. There's a ton of non-white characters, Jewish and Muslin characters, fat (!) characters who are positive and prominent and don't just show up once and go away, other disabled characters mentioned. And the book talks a lot about how those characters would be treated differently, and it's so... honestly. It's super inclusive and doesn't gloss over harsh realities, but also avoids being exploitative of its characters' pain. This makes me want to do 100 times better as a writer myself.
PG-13 stuff: It's the end of the world (as we know it) so there's obviously some disturbing things. Not really violence, exactly, but death and disturbing images. Think post-disaster of your choice. I could also see Denise's meltdowns maybe being overwhelming to some readers as they feel, to me at least, very true to life. That's a personal choice, but I like to tell you guys these things so you can be ready and make your own choices.
Cons, complaints, bad stuff, etc.: I legit have nothing. I have no complaints. Me. What even? I guess an ace character would have been nice, but I don't expect that ever, so.
Cover comments: I adore this cover so much. First of all, this shade of blue is one of my favourites. It's so soothing. But all the detail is incredible. The little ships, the sky, the destroyed building. It's actually not 100% accurate to the book, I think, just like plot-wise, but it's beautiful and I love it.
Conclusion: Have I rambled enough or what? It's taken me like two hours because I'm doing this longhand (editing Laina: And like an hour to type - this is so long) and I even had to find another notebook because I ran out of pages in the other one. I'm extremely interested in reading more of the author's books, and I seriously want to share this back at everyone until they read it. If you liked Across the Universe or, heck, Wall-E (minus the blatant fatphobic - seriously, it's awful in that movie), try this. I loved it and I think you will too. It's a very interesting promise, fairly unique, too, compared to similar stories, incredibly inclusive, has an amazing main character, amazing supporting and side characters, and a really good message. I know it's only February, or maybe April when you're reading this, but so far this is one of my favourite books of the year. Highly recommend. Four and a half roses.
- I feel like Denise would appreciate that I wrote this review in a notebook with a cat on it. Technically two, because I bought the same one twice.
- The food stuff in this is so relatable oh my God. I have never read something I understood more and one of my favourite things is that Denise never "got over" it, even if it was the end of the world and food was scarce. It's not that easy. I get that so much.
I think that's - finally! - it. Thanks for sticking around.
Peace and cookies,