After the End by Amy Plum

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This is not the kind of book that I would normally pick up, but seeing as we’re in the middle of moving, my choices are limited.  I’ve packed up almost all of our chapter books and it’s been quite some time since I’ve gone to the library to pick out a book for myself.  My choices were limited to a couple of books that my 11-year-old son had checked out.  Something is better than nothing, right?  Please note that my commentary will probably spoil the story for you, if you haven’t already read it.

The premise of After the End is quite interesting.  It’s about a girl, Juneau, who harbors some kind of pharmaceutical anti-aging secret, but she doesn’t even know about it.  She grew up in Alaska in a tiny community that lived off the land.  As a child, she had been told that the rest of humanity had either perished in WWIII or were ruthless scavengers who must be avoided at all costs.

When Juneau returns from a hunting trip to find that her entire clan has been abducted, she ventures out into the wider world to search for and rescue them.  What she finds completely rocks her world.  Not only is there a thriving metropolitan city mere hours from her home, but WWIII never happened.  For some reason her entire life seems as if it’s been a sham.  The adults in her clan have lied to her and she doesn’t know why.

Fast forward a bit, and Juneau is being tracked by two different groups who are trying to get something valuable that she harbors.  She meets up with the son of one of her pursuers and they go on an adventure to try and find her people, while evading their pursuers at the same time.  A love interest develops, though it’s quite tame by today’s standards.  (Thank goodness–there’s nothing more annoying than a couple of teens spouting off about how they can’t live without one another.  Yes, you can.  Start acting like rational people, please.)

Juneau also has remarkable powers throughout the book, with the explanation being loosely rooted in Gaia and eastern mysticism.  To be fair, it alludes to the idea that all spirituality is really just tapping into the same source, no matter what you call it.  This spiritual/superpower part is a bit confusing because it doesn’t have any good explanation.  I guess readers are just supposed to accept it at face value.

Towards the end of the book, Juneau’s love interest, Miles, is wounded and she performs the rite on him that is performed on all the members of her clan.  Presumably he becomes like her, though that is left wide open at the end.  When I finished the book, I thought, Wow, either that’s one of the worst endings around or they are setting it up for a sequel.  It looks like there is a sequel.

While I like the premise of the story quite a lot, the execution was just so-so.  The flow of the story is a little strange, but that is partly because the chapters alternate between being told from the perspective of Miles and Juneau.  Also, it’s not super believable.  For example, for being such a bad guy, Miles’ dad is rather dense when he leaves Juneau virtually unattended at his home, allowing her to easily escape.  Whatever.

The story was interesting, and if you’re young and not in the market for great quality literature, it will probably satisfy you.

Possible Objections:

  • Bad language–not a lot, but encompassing most cuss words.
  • A little romance–kissing and one person lying on top of the other.

Rating: 3 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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Tisha: The Story of a Young Teacher in the Alaska Wilderness as told to Robert Specht

Tisha

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Tisha: The Story of a Young Teacher in the Alaska Wilderness is one of my all-time favorite books!  I was introduced to it when I was fairly young, perhaps in grade school.  I believe that I found it on my dad’s bookshelf.  In fact, I still have that very copy, though the binding has completely split by now.

Anyhow, this book is a little difficult to classify because it doesn’t stick to a single genre.  There’s some adventure, some romance, some social commentary, some history.  Since it’s a biography, it is a multi-faceted story.  That makes it especially interesting and entertaining.

The overarching story is about a young woman named Anne Hobbs who goes to Alaska in the 1920’s to teach in the tiny community of Chicken.  She is hoping for some adventure, and boy does she find it!  There is plenty of adventure and action throughout the story, no doubt because of the frontier conditions in Alaska at that time and the inhabitants’ ability to do as they please.  Anne doesn’t understand how things are done in her new community, so she ends up stepping on toes and voicing opinions that are not widely accepted.  Many in the community believe that the Native “Indians” are not as good as white people, and this is where Anne runs into a lot of trouble.  She decides that she will allow the native children to attend school with the white kids, and then she has the gall to fall in love with a man who is half Native American.  There are truly heartbreaking scenes throughout the book, but in the end love wins out.

This story is so charmingly told that you end up feeling like you are a part of Anne’s community.  I love all the details the book gives about what life was like in that small Alaskan town at that particular time in history.  You get a glimpse into history that is both informative and entertaining.  I would highly recommend this book to adults and possibly older teens, depending on their level of maturity.  As you’ll see from the section below, there is quite a bit of objectionable content in the book.

Possible Objections:

  1. There is a lot of racism in this book, whether it’s racial slurs or simply people voicing their prejudices.  Though those views are not advocated, they are presented without apology as the views of some of the significant characters.
  2. Racist terms–more than just against Native Americans.  There are also a few slurs against African Americans and others.  I would not want my children reading those words until they are older and better able to judge that they are inappropriate.
  3. There is mention of one man having tried to start a chapter of the Ku Klux Klan in the town he used to live in.
  4. A child whose father chooses not to acknowledge him is called a “bastard.”
  5. There is a passage where one of the characters beats the donkeys and horses in his pack train to make them continue.  It could be disturbing for some people.
  6. The squalor and disease that is detailed in the Native American community could be disturbing to some readers.
  7. There are some episodes of violence, with people physically fighting.

Rating: 5 Stars

Until next time…

Lori