‘At the End of Everything’ – Marieke Nijkamp

Thanks to NetGalley for allowing me to read this prior to its January 2022 publication. Finding yourself caught up in an event of such magnitude is not something you could, generally, prepare for…but the events of recent years have, I think understandably, made people reflect on what they might do in such a situation and what is important to them.

Our story is set principally in the Hope Juvenile Treatment Centre, a place where those teens people don’t know what to do with are dumped. Nobody really notices them, nobody cares about them…and they are abandoned when the guards receive notice of an infectious disease spreading outside.

The book opens with establishing the hierarchy within the Centre, and introducing us to some of the key characters. Once the teens discover they have been left alone, the book focuses on their immediate reaction, the challenge to establish some sense of normalcy within the group and their ongoing attempts to survive in the face of something they have no idea how to beat.

After an attempted break-out results in the death of one of their party, and the realisation that they have been abandoned, those that remain in Hope are shown working out how to survive. There is the very real fear of catching the disease, there’s the reality of coping with an unknown situation and there’s the ongoing issues that come with having to trust people you don’t necessarily feel able to trust.

The book shows teens coping in adverse circumstances – and doing a much better job of it than many adults. We also get to see some of our core group learning about themselves and how to cope with some of their own issues that may impact on their lives outside. Not everything ends well, but there is a sense of resolve and optimism that remains throughout.