It’s been nine months since the virus hit, killing almost everyone it touched. Seventeen-year-old Cora and her little brother, Coby, haven’t left home since. Not after the power cut out; not even after sirens faded in the distance and the world outside their backyard fence fell silent. But when a blistering drought forces Cora to go in search of water, she discovers that the post-apocalyptic world isn’t as deserted as she thought when she meets Brooks, a drop-dead sexy army deserter.It’s been nine months since the
Fighting their way back home, Cora finds her house ransacked and Coby missing – kidnapped by the military for dangerous medical experiments in the name of finding a cure. Brooks knows exactly where Cora can find her brother, except he says it’s a suicide mission. Cora doesn’t care. But Brooks can’t let her go…
(re: Goodreads @ Until We End by Frankie Brown)
Should this book be picked up? the tl;dr spoiler-less review:
- Biological warfare? Probably in the near future.
- There is finesse in the world building in tight and expansive areas.
- Easily relatable heroine who delivers a palpable sense of urgency in plotting.
- Interactions between characters are lighthearted but rooted in seriousness.
Not a social butterfly? Not a problem! For a simple fee of a widespread virus, you too can stay at home for nine months post-outbreak and live off of canned rations and decaying greenhouse produce.
This was another quick read selected due to its similarity with The Fifth Wave (you can read about my review for it here). I wasn’t particularly crazy about the cover design but the first bit of the synopsis hit the mark for me – can’t help but enjoy a quick, post-apocalyptic read.
But if there is a lesson that I’m reminded of during this read, it’s that skepticism in literary comprehension will go a long way in the enjoyment of the outcome. For better or worse, you decide.
Let’s (out)break into the review.
Disclaimer: Potential spoilers inherent to this review from here onward.
Many protagonists within differing dystopian and by proxy, post-apocalyptic, worlds challenge the after or what they conceive as the ‘world.’ But what is their world? To Cora Jane Delaney, her brother Coby is. And it’s that which sets the premise of this search-and-rescue.
[“The greenhouse’s centerpiece was a small pond full of tilapia that bred like crazy. Rain was supposed to collect from the roof of the main house to feed into the pond, and then we could filter it for drinking water. But the combination of blistering drought and horny fish meant it was simultaneously overcrowded and drying out.”]
I’ll be quite frank on my perception of world-building. From a dystopian standpoint, aside from relevance toward the reader, when world building takes off (from the beginning) and is confined to a tight space, the main drive of success is to immaculately portray the tiny details; being particularly thorough but still allowing the imagination to work. Yet only when the world becomes larger can the intricacies take a step back letting the scenic take forefront. This novel did just that in the opening sequence leading into its inciting point. And as the narrative progressed into and out of dilapidated buildings, the world is well visualised and balances itself between both tight and loose descriptive.
We can agree to disagree but I hope you’re able to see the point being made.
The narrative follows Cora who is soon joined by Brooks (which for Anime otaku’s out: there reminded me of “Brook” from One Piece); a triple-a grade piece of meat likely to be swooned over by many. He’s the hulking quiet one with an indestructible heart to help others… or maybe just toward weak and needy characters… or maybe just to Cora. Either way, the development of his character wasn’t anything refreshing. Despite shipping their relationship, he’s a repackage of everything (including the buildup) that has been seen before. Yes, he has flaws and his history up until meeting her (Cora) was less-than-stellar, but there seemed to be something lacking. I think what it may have boiled down to is that aside from the romantic aspect, I didn’t feel like he had an honest reason to suddenly choose a rando-girl over years of being with his brigade. But on face value, if he had the overt inclination for her rations (for example) which then evolved into something greater, then sure, I’d find it more accepting. Otherwise, a sense of realism is lost. I get that there’s a fine line between having a personal connection and that which is between acquaintances; so maybe she’s his soul mate on some deep emotional level and I’m just thinking too much into it. I’m fine with the goal to achieve the against-all-odds happily ever after, but the buildup needs to be there to substantiate it.
[“The soldiers thought we were outnumbered and outgunned. But they didn’t know there was one more person in the SUV. Me. And I was armed. I got the nine-millimeter semi-automatic Glock 17 out of my hot pink backpack.”]
On the contrary, Cora was a very ‘at all costs’ type of heroine that essentially had to fast track through life and assume a guardian role for her brother. The importance isn’t simply to keep their hearts beating for another second but rather the desire to let Coby experience his life through his eyes; not those of children who had to suddenly grow up. There’s a degree of selflessness in that which is very poignant, real and comforting to see. So she’s far from being a damsel in distress in this subgenre. She has flaws and insecurities. Actually, she knows she does but that doesn’t stop her from being a grounded character that can be easily rooted for.
The dynamics between Cora and Brooks is superficially fun and lighthearted but rooted in the seriousness of a dying world. To tangent the idea that fun can still be had in a post-apocalyptic world, enter Lonnie: a guy who’s quirky presence and outwardly antics assisted in the subtle growth as a character for Cora and Brooks. His added presence slowed down the pace of the book just enough to remind readers that there can be still joys in a virus-ridden world.
[“I followed Brooks outside and down the street. Every step that took us closer to the center of the city made me more nervous. But I had to go to the shelter, had to at least try, even though I felt like I was Frodo and it was my Mount Doom.”]
Okay, so my stint on skepticism played a significant role in this particular read. Typically as pages are flipped, taking readers deeper into the narrative, hypotheses are bound to be drawn and “I think this will happen because of ABC” will be said. And that’s fine. But when guesses becomes truth and plotting becomes seemingly predictable (at times), it throws a tiny wrench in the enjoyment factor especially for an urgency-dependant suspense and thrilling novel. While I will say that there were moments of intrigue in pacing and plot twists, a lot of the framework (I found at least) could have been deduced as information was provided. Some will enjoy this, others will hate it – take your pick.
This does not however discount the fact that it was an overall enjoyable read. I did finish this in basically one sitting (save for New Year celebrations). Speaking to Brown as a writer, there is a certain finesse in the world building and dialogue that makes this plot very real and possible in the near future. Maybe it was just my own prejudice in skepticism working overtime to try to piece things together because as a whole, things did make sense for the most part. However, I would have liked more information pertaining to the government/military and the virus’ destructive force instead of allowing Savannah being a microcosm of the damages. Because even though the search-and-rescue plotting is achieved, there are questions left unanswered that certainly beg for more; a possible sequel of sorts.
Pretty fitting to have read this post-apocalyptic themed novel despite the start of a new year.