Blog Tour · Book Review

Review: Things to do Before the End of the World by Emily Barr

Who knew that YA pre-apocalyptic thriller was a genre I was missing? Apparently Emily Barr did because that was something I’ve never read before, and I found myself getting really into it!! Here’s my spot on The Write Reads Blog Tour!

Title: Things to do Before the End of the World
Author: Emily Barr
Pages: 360
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Publication Date: 6th May 2021
Ownership: eARC via The Write Reads blog tour

Rating: 4.5 stars

About the Book

One minute you’re walking in the park, hiding from a party. Then you discover that the next nine months will probably be your last. Everyone’s last. You realise that you happen to be alive at the time when your species becomes extinct.
You have to decide whether to go with it meekly like you usually do, or to do something brave, to live your last months with all the energy and bravery you can muster, to rage against the dying of the light.

Olivia struggles to live her real life as fully as she wants to. She plans out conversations and events in her head but actually doing them and interacting with other people is hard. When the news breaks that humans have done such damage to the earth that there’s only nine months of safe air left everybody makes bucket lists and starts living their best lives – everyone, that is, but Olivia who is still struggling to figure out who she wants to be.

Then out of the blue comes contact from a long-lost cousin Olivia didn’t even know existed. Natasha is everything Olivia wants to be and more. And as the girls meet up for their last summer on earth Olivia finds Natasha’s ease and self-confidence having a effect on her. But what if Natasha isn’t everything she first appears to be . . . ?

My Review

I’ll be honest, I was expecting to be sceptical about this book. I was anticipating more YA ‘finding yourself’ story than thriller. Even better, the thriller part of the story very slowly creeps up on you. You know that something isn’t quite right but, with something like the end of the world coming, you can imagine why someone might overlook some of the obvious tells …

In fact, all of those elements – of the teenager who is cripplingly shy and anxious and is desperate to be a slightly different person but doesn’t know how, the backdrop of the end of times creeping ever closer, and the young woman who isn’t quite what she seems – somehow work perfectly together. The author is playing her own game of smoke and mirrors and misdirection by presenting all of these elements together so that you are so overwhelmed by what appears to be going on, that you miss everything else. And I’ve got to say, that’s some pretty clever writing.

The impending apocalypse – the melting of the permafrosts and the irreversible end of a breathable atmosphere – and the world’s reaction to time ticking away is also frighteningly believable. The majority of people are going about their daily lives, because perhaps the problem will be resolved before time is up, and what else can you do anyway? There seems to be a collective decision made that the last few months will be one epic ‘see the world’ party, but until then you go to school and you work each day and you hope it won’t really happen.

Libby’s own growth throughout the story is surprising and steady. Thanks to the arrival of her estranged cousin she is being forced to come out of her shell; to learn slight of hand street magic, to talk with people, to stand up for herself. But can she use those skills when it really matters? And when being with the people you love matters more than everything else?

Although the end of the world should be taking precedence, Libby’s time with her family starts to raise questions – why is her mum distrustful of her cousin Natasha? Who is Violet? What happened between Libby and Natasha’s dads? I can’t really go into explaining the plot without giving it away. But it has TWISTS. Just like the end of the world (The Creep) these twists creep up on you too – you sort of know that they are there, and then bam! Surprise!

I would have liked to have seen more of the pre-apocalyptic element – we see some signs of the end of times, but a lot of people also seem to be behaving rationally and calmly. There is talk of looting and fires and rioting, but we don’t see those as much as you might expect, particularly given that there are a lot of scenes set in Madrid, Paris and finally London. I can understand why we don’t – Libby herself is actively trying to avoid knowing anything, her mum and stepdad are trying to keep her calm and happy and, with everything going on with her and Natasha, she would be quite distracted … but still, I would have liked a little more.

But I also loved the UK setting – the references to college and Sixth Form. It all just made sense and (for this Brit reader) made the whole apocalypse feel understated and understandable.

A really pleasing 4.5 stars (rounded down to 4) for this book!

I received an eARC of this book from NetGalley, the publishers and The Write Reads in exchange for an honest review.

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