After The End is sort of a post-apocalyptic novel, and yet it's not. What it is without a doubt, however, is an excellent read with pages that fly by. If there are flaws, they are minimal, and I'm already waiting for the next book.
So what makes this book so interesting? The writing, pure and simple. When we are introduced to Juneau, she's a young woman of seventeen surviving in the Alaskan wilderness after the devastation of World War III drove them to a remote place on earth. She and her clan know there are others out there--the appearance occasionally of planes overhead confirms that--but they believe the others may be contaminated or perhaps "brigands" ready to take all they have. More striking than all this, though, is the mystery of the Yara, a sort of natural force that the clan can tap and use to Read and Conjure; all the children of the clan bear witness to their connection to the Yara through a bright starburst pupil marking them. When Juneau goes out hunting, she is panicked when she realizes helicopters have invaded her home and taken all the members of her clan, so she goes out past the boundaries set by the Elders in search of her family. What she discovers is that she's been lied to all her life: there never was a World War III and life is going on. Tapping into the Yara, Juneau discovers that a boy named Miles is the key to finding those she loves, and she teams up with him, not realizing his father is also searching for her because apparently she knows something vital.
Well, that's the bare bones of the story, and it comes nowhere near explaining what really works for this book. Juneau's naiveté is quickly overcome as she discovers the desperation of her plight, and Miles's determination to make his mistakes up to his father override a lot of the choices he makes. Their relationship develops slowly, but the danger both are in forces them to re-evaluate all they know. The back-and-forth method of changing points of view works very well as we see what makes each character tick, and the fact that there really aren't too many other characters to actually interact with makes the story focused. If I'm not sure of the magical elements, I can still buy into the humanity of the story and the breathless way Juneau moves to avoid those chasing her. The truth is, I don't know who to believe at this point, and that's part of the appeal. This book merits a strong 4.5 stars and definitely has me thinking about what's coming next.