This is Where the World Ends – Amy Zhang
21st March 2016, 304 pages, 3/5 stars
Thanks to HarperCollins for the review copy. I won it at their fantastic BTCYA event!
Micah, the main character, has some kind of amnesia. While that was a point which initially drew me to the book, it made the set-up incredibly confusing, and I never got past that – my connection to the book remained shallow throughout.
The book switches between two perspectives – the After (from Micah’s point of view) and the Before (from Janie’s point of view). I feel that this particular technique has been overdone – I loved the countdown which happened in John Green’s Looking for Alaska, but no longer think it’s original to keep the reader guessing for so long.
Janie was an incredibly selfish character. She was completely obsessed with her own ambitions and would walk over everybody to get exactly what she wanted. She and Micah had a great friendship, but she insisted on keeping it on the down-low so that she could still be popular at school. I don’t know why I hated the character so much – often I like the unlikeable ones, however this has only really happened to me with fantasy books.
Something dreadful happens to Janie – while I hate this particular atrocity being used as a plot point, Zhang really encapsulated the thoughts and emotions; these moments felt very real. However, I detested that something so drastic had to happen to make me feel anything for Janie as a character.
There was one REALLY cool aspect to this book, which is what raised it from a two-star read to a three-star. Janie’s senior English project is all about fairytales, and we occasionally see glimpses of her diaries. It was fantastic to see her life retold in such a way. I think the story might have worked better had there been more mini snippets, and that was all we saw of Janie. It would have created more ambiguity, but I think it would have been a nicer read.
This book will definitely appeal to readers who love YA contemporary, particularly those who loved Jennifer Niven’s All the Bright Places and John Green fans. Personally, I would have liked this book a lot more had I connected a little bit more strongly with either of the protagonists. As it was, Janie was a bitch and Micah was a pushover. Only the few fairytale elements made it worth reading.
Micah and Janie, Janie and Micah. That’s how it’s been ever since elementary school, when Janie Vivian moved in next door to Micah. Janie says Micah is everything she is not. Where Micah is shy, Janie is outgoing. Where Micah loves music, Janie loves art. The way Janie sees it, Micah and Janie share a soul. They’ll be best friends forever – as long as no one at school knows about it.
Janie and Micah are secret friends. They spend their free time together at the quarry, a pile of rocks Janie dubs the ‘Metaphor for Our Lives.’ At school, Janie pretends she and Micah are only neighbors and barely acquaintances. But when Janie is date raped by the most popular guy in school – the boy she has had a crush on for years – she finds herself ostracised by all the people she called her friends. Now only Micah seems to believe she’s telling the truth. But when even Micah expresses doubts about Janie’s honesty, it leads to disastrous consequences, and Janie Vivian goes missing.
Another hard-hitting and stunning literary/commercial read, featuring memorable characters and a nonlinear narrative, from the extraordinarily talented Amy Zhang.
Does a character have to be likeable? Does the genre affect what you want from a character?