Friday, 27 November 2015

Review: Instructions for the End of the World by Jamie Kain

Publication Date: December 8th 2015
Publisher: St Martin’s Press
Length: 224 pages

Thanks to Netgalley and St Martin’s Press for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review

He prepared their family for every natural disaster known to man--except for the one that struck.
When Nicole Reed's father forces her family to move to a remote area of the Sierra Foothills, one without any modern conveniences, it's too much too handle for her mother, who abandons them in the middle of the night. Heading out to track her down, Nicole's father leaves her in charge of taking care of the house and her younger sister, Izzy. For a while, Nicole is doing just fine running things on her own. But then the food begins to run out, the pipes crack, and forest fires start slowly inching their way closer every day. Wolf, a handsome boy from the neighboring community, offers to help her when she needs it most, but when she starts to develop feelings for him, feelings she knows she will never be allowed to act on once her father returns, she must make a decision. With her family falling apart, will she choose to continue preparing for tomorrow's disasters, or will she take a chance and really start living for today?
Side note: It really frustrates me when covers are designed by people who have clearly never read the book. Why is she wearing a hat and a blanket? The entire book takes place in the middle of summer when it’s stupidly hot and there are forest fires coming for them.
It’s always a bad sign when you want to shake 90% of the characters in a book. Alas, ‘Instructions for the End of the World’ has that in spades, in fact I think there was only one character that didn’t frustrate me. It also might be my book of the year for truly terrible parenting. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book with such a bunch of awful, unfit to have children parents in some time. You have Wolf’s mother who is completely self-absorbed and tries to bring everyone into the drama of her life. Then Nicole and Isabel’s parents – one of whom it emerges never wanted children and willingly leaves her kids with their slightly unstable father in the middle of nowhere with no intentions to come back and rescue them.
Good job parents.
Then there are the kids, who are slightly screwed up but no less frustrating. There was so much potential here with both Nicole and Isabel and the situations they find themselves in, but it didn’t feel like the book was ever fully allowed to explore them, it just glossed over the top and as a result any emotional impact was lost. It also makes both of the girls decisions really hard to understand, particularly in the end of the novel where I just wanted to introduce my head to the desk for a while and weep for the idiocy.
There are several character viewpoints: Wolf, Nicole and her sister Isabel – all reasonable. But then we have one random other view point from Laurel who gets a grand total of two chapters out of the book and feels like a secondary character arc that was meant to be expanded into something, but instead was left as a beginning and an end.

Whilst the concept was fascinating, I never really connected with the characters or the story. I wanted to get drawn into the situation, to feel for these people, but I felt like nothing was really driving the events – there was no real plot to speak of. I ended up just feeling apathetic and mildly frustrated, and wishing for the story I thought I’d be diving into when I opened this book.

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