by Jill M. Andreasen, MLIS, Collection Development Librarian
A recent trend I’ve noticed in both juvenile and YA fiction is stories dealing with the apocalypse. But rather than focusing on dystopias, this new crop of narratives is themed around the actual End of the World: some humorous, some figurative, some literal. It’s important to have narratives to allow kids to explore their anxieties about the future—including climate change, political and social upheaval, imploding personal lives, and ya know, extinction.
This theme continues to be in our social consciousness and as always, shows up in our art—the excitement for the recently dropped Prime TV series adaptation of Gaiman’s and Pratchett's Good Omens is a great example of catchy storytelling about the End. And I would like to highlight two upcoming Fall novels that deal substantially with the idea of the apocalypse.
“Eschatology. The study of things at the…end. End of life, end of eras, end of the world. It’s a good word, right?” This wonderful piece of dialogue belongs to Katie Henry’s second novel Let’s Call it a Doomsday.
It exquisitely explores the apocalyptic themes from the POV of teen Ellis, who suffers from generalized anxiety disorder and comes to believe that the world will end on the next winter solstice. Ellis has been a doomsday prepper for years in the belief that she can help take care of her family when all she has ever felt like is a burden to them with the consequences of her anxiety. That feeling of power and agency is one she desperately needs, so when a new friend, Hannah, tells her she’s had visions of the end and that Ellis will be there with her at the apocalypse, well, her belief is powerful, too.
Along with exploring themes of mental disorder, Henry’s novel is wide-ranging and touches on faith, diverse sexuality, and complicated family dynamics. In fact, one of the things I found particularly engaging is the fully developed adult characters in Ellis’ life, especially her mother. Ellis’s journey of understanding and seeing her mother in a more nuanced light instead of just an antagonist is beautifully portrayed.
The second novel I’d like to discuss is a bit of a lighter take on doomsday prepping, understandably, since it’s a middle-grade narrative: McAnulty’s The World Ends in April Elle Dross has been raised on prepping essentials: BOB (bug-out bags), bunkers, and TEOTWAWKI (the End of the World as We Know It) drills driven into her and her brothers by her beloved Grandpa Joe, over her father’s objections. But when Elle happens across a website put up by a prominent Harvard astrophysicist with a prediction of an extinction-event asteroid hitting Earth next spring, Elle is determined to prepare and warn her nearest and dearest. She even forms a club at school to get fellow students ready to face the aftermath.
Elle’s passion for trying to help her fellow students when all her life she’s felt like an outsider with only one friend is really inspiring, and the reader can see clearly all the issues each of the members of the prepper club is working through in this conduit. Whether the world ends or not in April, the characters’ need for cataclysmic change is real and satisfying.
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