Title: The Quiet at the End of the World
Author: Lauren James
Cover Illustrator: Lisa Horton Design
Publisher: Walker Books
Genre: Teen/young adult fiction, Science Fiction
Book format: Paperback
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Lowrie and Shen are the youngest people on the planet after a virus caused global infertility.  Closeted in a pocket of London and doted upon by a small, ageing community, the pair spend their days mudlarking and looking for treasure – until a secret is uncovered that threatens their entire existence.
In the quiet at the end of the world, Lowrie and Shen must decide what they are willing to sacrifice to save the whole human race…

*Free copy provided by publisher for review…

Review: I really don’t know what to think about this book. It had such an amazing and compelling story, but after reading it I just feel quite down and disappointed by the overall ending. Lowrie and Shen are the youngest people left in the world after a virus eighty-five years ago caused mass infertility across the whole planet. A community of much older adults takes care of them in a London that no longer resembles our own. Lowrie and Shen live a generally happy life exploring underground and finding treasures when mudlarking, but when a terrible accident occurs, and none of the adults will say what is going on, Lowrie and Shen begin to suspect that there are certain secrets that have been kept from them for a long time.

The Quiet at the End of the World book cover image
©The Strawberry Post – Check out the details that reflect on the cover!

Set in the future and with the idea of these two teenagers being the last of the human race really made me want to read this. I’ve read the author’s previous book ‘The Loneliest Girl in the Universe’ and really enjoyed how gripping it was and the twists that were incorporated into it. This book did have a similar feel from the start, of a fast paced novel which did have some good twists. The story, although told from Lowrie’s point of view centres on the two teens as we get to know what life is like in the future where no more humans are born. At the same time there is another mini tale being revealed through old social media posts of what happened to everyone and the consequences of the virus that caused infertility. I liked the way the main story and this minor one set in the later 2020s jumped back and forth, revealing little clues as to what has led to society ending up this way.

The book is generally fast paced but at times it did slow down, especially when Lowrie is contemplating things. But most of the time this was just brief and I didn’t mind as the overall story progressed quickly. There was a really good twist half way through which I didn’t see coming and which caused me to want to keep reading this all the more – I ended up reading most of this book in one sitting. I was desperate to find out why things were the way they were and what would happen to all the characters. But although the climax of the story was good, the overall ending left me feeling disappointed.

I won’t spoil the ending, but I will say that the whole story had a good momentum and build up to the end. I was really gripped by what was happening, especially as the ending was a ‘race against the clock’ kind of scenario which drove the story. But once the main action was resolved, it took a very slow turn, and rather than focusing on the characters and wrapping up the tale neatly, I did feel that the ending became more of a speech about humanity and life and evolution.

This book does pose some good questions about ethics, people’s effects on the planet, climate change, etc. And while I don’t have any issues with books that address big topics like this, I do feel that this should be done while still concentrating on the main character’s stories and lives. However I feel that ‘The Quiet at the End of the World’ did lose Lowrie and Shen’s story in the end, focusing on a wider picture about humans and the future of life in general. I did like this overall message, it was a clever one and it did give an ending to the book on the whole, but the overall feeling I got when I finished was just disappointment as I feel that Lowrie and Shen’s tale was just over and we didn’t really know what happened with them after the final chapter. There is a short epilogue, which does suggest one aspect of what happened, but it wasn’t enough for me to feel like I had a final satisfying ending to the Lowrie and Shen’s story and instead I felt pretty down for a while after reading this as I felt almost cheated out of a decent ending.

There is very little swearing in this book although the occassional s swear word in English and a swear word in Japanese is used a few times. There is nothing else that I believe would upset anyone to read this book and younger teens can enjoy it as much as older and adults.

I’m still not sure what to say about this book. I felt such a rush after reading the author’s previous book ‘The Loneliest Girl in the Universe’ and while this one does a good job of addressing some interesting issues about the future, and has a good overall storyline with some great twists and a generally compelling feel, the ending just felt so flat and disappointing.

Have you read this book?  Do you like science fiction books?  What do you think of books that tackle big subjects like humanities effect on the planet?  Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂