The Quiet at the End of the World by Lauren James is a YA dystopian told from the perspective of Lowrie, one of the youngest people on Earth. Cared for by elderly parents, she lives in a ruined London with the only other teenager on the planet, her friend Shen. While the elderly community races to find a cure for the virus that has made everyone infertile, Lowrie and Shen spend their days mudlarking. But a chance discovery unlocks a series of revelations and the two teens must decide the fate of civilisation before time runs out…
Shameful confession – it’s ages since I read any UK YA. And after finishing The Quiet at the End of World, I really don’t know why. This book has everything – character, plot, pace and originality. In many ways, it reminded me of John Wyndham’s novels. The tone is British, stark, unique yet it also has soul. Lauren James has injected this SF form with emotion and diversity to create a memorable story for our times.
There were many reasons I enjoyed this, but these are my highlights in no particular order:
The idea of a deserted, crumbling London was strangely uplifting. With fewer humans, nature is starting to recover and Lowrie sees the city as her own personal playground. I absolutely loved the descriptions of the manor house she lives in with all its secret passages and sumptuous library – a bibliophile’s paradise.
Lowrie is far from perfect. She admits her flaws right from the beginning, but she knows her worth too. Handy with tools, and openly bisexual, she constantly reflects on who she is. Her relationship with Shen is nicely complicated too. There’s just the right balance of sweetness and edge.
The Quiet at the End of the World has more twists than a bowl of spaghetti with one major turn that changes the whole course of the novel. It’s a testament to Lauren James that she manages to weave this surprise into the plot so deftly. I only guessed before it happened which doesn’t happen very often these days!
All the Extras
The secondary material in the book adds another layer to the tale, connecting the present with the past. We get to read the entries in Lowrie and Shen’s mudlarking journal, as well as online conversations between characters who lived during the days of the virus. I always enjoy little touches like this because they provide variety and a puzzle-like quality to the core narrative.
Faults? Well some parts the final section of the book were a little too convenient, but I could overlook them because of the overall strength of the novel. I really, really like Lauren James’ writing style which offers an effective blend of readability, challenge and feeling. You can read about how she developed the story on her website.
Everything in The Quiet at the End of the World has value – both on the page and beyond. It’s a thoughtful, intelligent read with shades of Station Eleven, yet with an identity of its own. A tale that makes us see our world with new eyes and treasure it all the more.
Thanks to Walker books for offering me this copy in exchange for an honest review.
You can buy the book here.
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