It’s the End of the World and I’m In My Bathing Suit by Justin A. Reynolds. Scholastic Press, 2022. 9781338740226
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 2
Format: ARC, publication date April 5, 2022
Genre: Science fiction/adventure
What did you like about the book? With a promising premise and a couple of successes behind him in YA fiction, Justin Reynolds tries his hand at a middle-grade novel. It’s the end of the summer in Cleveland, and 12-year-old Eddie is looking forward to his neighborhood’s annual Beach Bash on the shores of Lake Erie. Unfortunately, Eddie’s mom finds out he’s been reneging on his promise to keep up with his laundry. In fact, he hasn’t done any all summer, planning on wearing every single item of clothing strategically so that by beach time, he’ll be down to just his swim trunks. Now, instead of eating the delicious food packed carefully by his stepdad and hanging out with the beautiful Ava (whom Eddie can only dream of calling his girlfriend), he’s stuck at home doing a mountain of wash. Then the power goes out, cell phone reception vanishes, and a crew of Eddie’s friends show up. Looks like it might be the end of the world! The five kids band together to gather necessary supplies from the abandoned houses, which results in a junk food orgy followed by a vague plan to “borrow” stepdad’s prize T-Bird and head to the beach to find out what’s going on. Eddie’s ADHD and his use of medication to manage his neurological condition are a constant thread in the story and help to explain both his behavior and his scattershot narrative style. Another plot thread revolves around Eddie’s deceased “Real Dad” and his discomfort with “WBD’s” (Wanna Be Dad) gallant efforts to establish a relationship. The quick wrap-up leads me to believe there’s a sequel in the works. An opening author’s note references Reynolds’s love for 80s movies like Home Alone, Adventures in Babysitting, and Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead; definitely all foundational texts for this book. All the characters in the book cue as Black.
Anything you didn’t like about it? With its frequent asides, meandering timeline, and overstuffed plot, the book read more like a draft than a finished novel. The first three-quarters of the chapters just deal with doing the laundry, which will be far more time than most kid readers will want to spend on this tedious chore. It’s unbelievable that Mom (described as a scary-smart lawyer) didn’t notice Eddie’s shenanigans earlier and that she wouldn’t have set up numerous guard rails to keep her kid on the straight and narrow. The 4 friends appear with little preamble and the children seem blissfully unfazed by the absence of ALL their neighbors and families. Most problematic was Eddie himself, who comes off as a spoiled guy, although I’m guessing there might be some character growth in a follow-up book?
To whom would you recommend this book? Middle grade readers who don’t mind dirty underwear jokes and look for adventure/humor hybrids may enjoy this. I would be more likely to recommend books by Kekla Magoon or Varian Johnson for upper elementary and middle school readers who want an entertaining read with Black characters.
Who should buy this book? Public libraries
Where would you shelve it? 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: January 2, 2022
I’m still interested in reading this, but can see how this might not work for everyone.