Note: This review is part of the 2016 Summer Reading Diversity Spotlight.
This Is Where the World Ends by Amy Zhang
Release Date: March 22, 2016
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
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Janie and Micah, Micah and Janie. That’s how it’s been ever since elementary school, when Janie Vivien moved next door. Janie says Micah is everything she is not. Where Micah is shy, Janie is outgoing. Where Micah loves music, Janie loves art. It’s the perfect friendship—as long as no one finds out about it. But then Janie goes missing and everything Micah thought he knew about his best friend is colored with doubt.
Using a nonlinear writing style and dual narrators, Amy Zhang reveals the circumstances surrounding Janie’s disappearance in Amy Zhang’s second novel.
Having loved Amy Zhang’s debut novel, Falling Into Place, I was highly anticipated her next book which released earlier this year. This Is Where the World Ends follows two secret best friends and their journeys leading up to and after one of them goes missing.
This is told in nonlinear form with Janie narrating Before and Micah narrating After. I liked the nonlinear form but in addition to this were a few journal entries from Janie (all metaphorical entries), most of which I didn’t connect with and therefore, could have done without. I got it but I just didn’t love it.
What I do love about Amy Zhang’s work is that she has a such a hypnotizing voice and such a deliciously sweet writing style and she is so consistent in that that she is fantastic at and unapologetic about creating such flawed, broken, fully fleshed out characters, destructive characters and equally complex relationships and unhealthy friendships. It’s so raw and messy refreshing to read a story with unhealthy, toxic friendships and a spotlight on the ways we hurt the people we love the most. In regards to this, tone wise, I’d say if you liked Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver or Dare Me by Megan Abbott, you’ll like this dark and twisted tale.
Because the unhealthy friendship between Janie and Micah is what carries the story for me, I almost felt like the mystery of finding out what the WHAT was of the Before and After actually wasn’t all that important. And then the “reveal” happened. And, spoiler alert here we come… Janie is raped. I don’t know how I feel about 1) rape being the big reveal and 2) me not liking the book even more after “the big reveal,” which, in general, I usually do. Rape being the reveal unsettled me in the tired trope kind of way. Also, how things unfold afterwards, particularly the ending…boy, so much more could have been explored in this story. So much.
So, still wrapping my head around all of this and therefore, I can’t quite shout from the mountaintop how much I loved this book like I can with Falling Into Place. But boy, it certainly makes for great conversation amongst those who have read this book, that’s for sure. I’m curious to know from those who have read this book, what they thought.
If you’re new to Amy Zhang, read her debut novel first, then this one. If you’ve got this on your list of books to read, this book is so captivating, so beautifully written that it’s easily a day read, so pull this one out when you want to just drown yourself in…misery. This is Where the World Ends is dark. It’s heavy from page one, I think, so you know what you’re getting yourself into. So, if you’re a mood reader and want something dark to devour, this is certainly a good choice.
Now while I can’t say that I connected to This Is Where the World Ends nearly as much as I did Zhang’s debut, this is a solid sophomore novel, and I can definitely see many passionate mixed review for this one. But mixed feelings bring great discussion so get this one read and become a part of that discussion.
This Is Where the World Ends by Amy Zhang is available today.