Title: You and Me at the End of the World by Brianna Bourne
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dystopian
Release Date: July 20, 2021
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Genre: YA Dystopian
This is no ordinary apocalypse…
Hannah Ashton wakes up to silence. The entire city around her is empty, except for one other person: Leo Sterling. Leo might be hottest boy ever (and not just because he’s the only one left), but he’s also too charming, too selfish, and too devastating for his own good, let alone Hannah’s.
Stuck with only each other, they explore a world with no parents, no friends, and no school and realize that they can be themselves instead of playing the parts everyone expects of them. Hannah doesn’t have to be just an overachieving, music-box-perfect ballerina, and Leo can be more than a slacker, 80s-glam-metal-obsessed guitarist. Leo is a burst of honesty and fun that draws Hannah out, and Hannah’s got Leo thinking about someone other than himself for the first time.
Together, they search for answers amid crushing isolation, but while their empty world may appear harmless . . . it’s not. Because nothing is quite as it seems, and if Hannah and Leo don’t figure out what’s going on, they might just be torn apart forever.
Rating: 3 Stars
From what I can gather this is a dual perspective novel following Hannah Ashton and Leo Sterling during the apocalypse, like 28 Day Later style where everyone just vanishes so I am intrigued. At the opening of the novel we know through Hannah that five days ago basically everything and everyone like people and animals disappeared and she has lived for the past five days thinking she is the only person in her city as she hasn’t gone beyond that. Hannah is very anxious about the situation and upon visiting the bookstore owned by a friend’s family she meets Leo. She knows Leo from school even though they don’t run in the same circles and she is delighted as there is another person. Leo is just as delighted even if he doesn’t show it at first because he like Hannah has felt an increasing anxiety stemming from being alone all the time. The first interaction between the pair is extremely awkward as neither can believe it is happening, Hannah is also a little dumbstruck by the fact the only other living being she has seen in five days is one of the hottest boys at school and someone she might have had a crush on for a long time. We can immediately see that each has pre-set ideas about what the other one is liked based of their knowledge from other people not knowing that person themselves. I did like the fact both have anxious tics, Hannah acts out her ballet choreography with her hands to calm herself down where as Leo uses music but he bounces his leg a lot which was nice to see in both a male and female character.
As we approach the ¼ mark in the novel, Hannah and Leo form an immediate bond stemming from the fact both of them have been alone for five days which is uncommon for them as they are used to being surrounded by people. They decide to stick together and Leo encourages Hannah to do things she wants to do rather than what her schedule has always demanded she do. Hannah isn’t sure what she wants to do so they travel to a nearby festival that was supposed to be taking place so Leo can locate a guitar belonging to a singer he knows as claim it for his own. During this time both of them get to know each other a little better, Leo is surprised by Hannah’s knowledge of music despite her classical background mainly because of her father and Hannah is coming to see Leo as shy, awkward boy rather than the confident singer he projected at school and on stage. I liked the fact that Hannah is presented as being internal awkward while Leo is outwardly awkward as this is usually reversed in contemporary romance novels.
As we cross the ¼ mark in the novel, Hannah and Leo are getting closer but both have their own insecurities and secrets that they don’t want to share with the other as they have only really known each other for 12 hours. With it seemingly turning to night time at only 5 in the afternoon they decide to head back to Hannah’s place together since she has a spare room to accommodate Leo and the fact that neither of them wants to be alone. At Hannah’s place they have some tea while she shows him around the house and the class difference between them becomes apparent even though it doesn’t really matter given the situation they are in. Leo also clearly has some abandonment and commitment issues due to his neglectful parents and this reputation as a bad boy that he is almost expected to live up to. Hannah has a similar issues with dancing as her mother seemingly pressured her into it as a child as her own career as a dancer was cut short due to injury and the only times her mother every showed affection towards her or praised her was when she excelled at ballet.
As we approach the halfway mark in the novel, I was getting a little bored with the back and forth interactions between Hannah and Leo and I wanted to focus more on the strange circumstances rather than the relationship between them. The pair spends some time together when Leo watches Hannah dance before they see a light in the distance moving over the town. Hannah believes it is a searchlight on a helicopter looking for them but Leo isn’t optimistic about it, by the time they drive into town and the light passes over them it disappears immediately followed by them being hit with a literal wall of rain. Hannah is upset throughout this as she was looking forward to being reunited with her family and friends and it is taking its toll on her. At this point I was getting a little bored with the repetitive nature of the characters actions, I wanted something to change externally where maybe Hannah and Leo find a clue to what is going on or something to happen with their relationship to make it more exciting for the reader.
As we cross into the second half of the novel, things started to get very strange and twisty. I honestly thought that this book was going for a more sci-fi, dystopian-esque kind of vibe but it ended up being pretty much fantasy and contemporary fantasy is just something that doesn’t work for me. I don’t really want to talk about the second half of the novel in depth because of the conflicting feelings I have about it. On the one hand, I love both Leo and Hannah but on the other hand their characters did start to bore me by the halfway mark and feel a little flat. The plot and premise of this novel also seemed really interesting but it took almost the entire first half for the book to begin going anywhere and then it went wild. Going wild isn’t a bad thing some books like Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy do it really well but this didn’t work. To go in the direction Bourne wanted this needed a lot more groundwork and buildup in the first half that was sacrificed to make the relationship between Leo and Hannah seem less like insta-love when Hannah herself comments that it is insta-love and all that effort was wasted on it. Honestly, I have mixed feelings about You and Me at the End of the World, I think back when I was a little younger this would have been a book I greatly enjoyed but as a 24 year old I expect a lot more from my fantasy novels and the mixing of genres here just didn’t work for me on a personal level, if I want a fantasy book I want it to be 100% fantasy not taking place in a contemporary setting.
About the Author:
When she’s not writing, Brianna Bourne works as a stage manager for ballet companies around the world. Originally from Texas, she grew up in Indonesia and Egypt and now lives in England with her husband and their two daughters. You can find Brianna on social media on Twitter and Instagram.
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I received this review copy from Terminal Tours.