Book Title: How to Pack for the End of the World| Author: Michelle Falkoff Category: YA (Ages 13-17) | Publisher: HarperCollins (HarperTeen) Release date: November 2020
Book Description: If you knew the world was going to end tomorrow, what would you do? This is the question that haunts Amina as she watches new and horrible stories of discord and crisis flash across the news every day. But when she starts at prestigious Gardner Academy, Amina finds a group of like-minded peers to join forces with—fast friends who dedicate their year to learning survival skills from each other, before it’s too late. Still, as their prepper knowledge multiplies, so do their regular high school problems, from relationship drama to family issues to friend blow-ups. Juggling the two parts of their lives forces Amina to ask another vital question: Is it worth living in the hypothetical future if it’s at the expense of your actual present?
My Thoughts: This realistic fictional YA novel follows five high school sophomores as they attend their first year at Gardner Academy — all from various backgrounds, but all with fears of what the future holds. Starting a club called Eucalyptus, the group meets to play survival games and readers slowly find out their secrets and pasts. In parallel, the new friends form bonds and crushes, friendships and romantic relationships as they adjust to life away from home. When they each become victims of various pranks, they confront the person responsible to uncover the truth.
Navigating a new school after a traumatic event takes her freshman year of course, Amina embarks on a new life at a boarding school. Her fear centers on survival so she focuses on planning for whatever disaster could end the world. But the subtleties of what it means to “survive” become apparent when those closest to her betray her and those she thought she knew are not who they seem.
This contemporary story follows a group of young survivalists through their high school trials and tribulations. While I found some of the characters seemed much older than high schoolers (and, as such, I would recommend the book for a slightly older age group than the 13-17 range stated), it was fun to follow relatable school antics and overblown dramas that often occur in this setting. It was refreshing to see a flawed protagonist whose negative traits actually come back to bite her, not just become quirks that we grow to love. Liberal politics takes center stage where everything from environmentalism, abortion, classism and homelessness are addressed by these young activists as they try to figure out what they believe in and why. At times there are quite heavy concepts for these characters to consider, but this could prompt discussions of timely topics within this age group. While there were a few loose ends that I wish had been addressed, the story buzzes along in a quick pace that makes for an enjoyable, compelling read.
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