Harper360 publishes some of my favourite young adult novels, including the incredible A Thousand Pieces of You and Ten Thousand Skies Above You by Claudia Gray (the third installment in the series isn't released until November and already it's my most anticipated novel of the year). I always look forward to their emails with upcoming releases, as they often include titles I wasn't familiar with yet, and This is Where the World Ends by Amy Zhang was one such a book.
Micah and Janie have been neighbours and close friends since elementary school. But as they grow up to become two wildly different people, with different interests and different social circles, nobody knows that the two teenagers are friends as they don't even speak to each other at school. And yet there is this undeniable connection between them, forged through years of sharing secrets and showing their true selves – as you only do with someone who knows all your flaws and insecurities.
But one day Janie disappears from Micah's life and he has no idea what has happened or where she has gone to. He wakes up in the hospital with a gaping hole in his memory of the last time he saw her and now the police are questioning him. Micah has no idea what is going on and neither his father nor his friend Dewey seem to be willing to tell him the truth. As whispers mount at school, Micah decides to fill in the blanks in his memory by retracing the last steps he remembers. But maybe not knowing was the better option all along.
This was a contemporary YA with an interesting and mysterious premise but as Micah became more frustrated with himself at not remembering what had happened, I became more frustrated with the story as it was so painfully obvious which direction it was going to take and so with each passing page I was urging Micah to catch up with the story already. Predictability isn't always an issue, after all it can be the journey towards a certain conclusion that can be the most rewarding of all, but in this instance I felt it did detract from the mystery element that was such a focus of the story.
That isn't to say that there wasn't anything to enjoy within this book. I did find myself drawn to the complicated relationship between the two main characters; Micah's unrequited love for Janie and her completely messed up antics added some really interesting dynamics to this unlikely friendship. While the two didn't so much as acknowledge each other at school, the flashback chapters and snippets from Janie's diary woven throughout the novel showed a complicated yet deep connection between the two teenagers and so it shouldn't come as a surprise that the climax of the story had such a devastating impact on Micah.
I was really fascinated by the characters and their relationship, even if I didn't particularly like either of them. So rather than my interest being driven by a compelling story, it was this fascination for the characters themselves, not the journey they were on, that kept me intrigued enough to read until the very final page. This is Where the World Ends may not have the most page-turning plot I have read, but in a time where ass-kicking female protagonists and charismatic bad boys make up the majority of bookish main characters, different kinds of protagonists and good characterisation goes a long way.
Many thanks to the publisher for a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.
This is Where the World Ends is published by HarperCollins on and you can buy a copy from Foyles or your own preferred retailer.
Connect with Amy Zhang