You & Me at the End of the World by Brianna Bourne. Scholastic Press, 2021. 9781338712636
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 3.5
What did you like about the book? The tagline for this YA romance is “This is no ordinary apocalypse” and the intriguing first half of the book focuses on Hannah and Leo, seemingly alone in Houston. At first, they aren’t even aware of each other, but a chance encounter at an abandoned bookstore/music shop is their meet-cute. Coincidentally, they attend the same high school and have noticed each other but never spoken. Both teens are slightly strung out after 5 days of roaming the empty streets. Hannah is a tightly wound aspiring ballerina, with doting parents and a comfortable life, while Leo dreams of becoming a heavy metal rocker, but navigates a hand-to-mouth life with a single mom and two siblings. Together they explore their weird situation, visiting an amusement park, a museum, and a deserted metal-fest fairgrounds, all the while nurturing a growing attraction. They’re also besieged by crazy weather, enigmatic sunrises and sunsets, and sudden flashes of deja vu. A breakthrough comes when Hannah realizes they can think and influence their surroundings and we gradually realize (spoiler alert) that the pair is hovering between life and death. A quick wrap-up explains what’s going on (a dramatic car accident) and resolves Hannah’s ambivalence toward pursuing ballet (she’d rather be a writer) and Leo’s intimacy issues. I found the mystery and despair of the first half of the novel quite compelling. All the characters in the book present as White.
Anything you didn’t like about it? Once the car accident deus ex machina intervention appeared (about three-quarters of the way into the book), the whole edifice started to topple for me. I almost wished that Hannah’s crazy board in her enormous pantry had panned out, as the other options (“evacuation, ghosts, zombies, nuclear fallout, hurricane, virtual reality, aliens, rapture”) sounded far more interesting. The trope of cool guy thawing out an ice princess felt a bit predictable.
To whom would you recommend this book? Teens looking for a romance with a bit of otherworldliness will enjoy this quick read. Recommended for fans of The Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds.
Who should buy this book? High schools and public libraries
Where would you shelve it? YA fiction
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No
Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA
Date of review: October 10, 2021