Jenna Rideout's Reviews > How to Pack for the End of the World

How to Pack for the End of the World by Michelle Falkoff
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really liked it
bookshelves: read-author-requested

I would like to thank the author Michelle Falkoff, the publisher HarperCollins, and iReads Book Tours for access to an eARC of this title in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to iReads for the opportunity to participate in the blog tour for this title. Thank you to Michelle Falkoff for trying your best to get me hooked up with a copy through NetGalley. Thank you to my influencer program contacts at HarperCollins for hooking me up via Edelweiss when we ran into regional troubles with the NetGalley listing. It was an adventure, for sure! This has not swayed my opinion on the review. My thoughts are my own and my review is honest.

This book is not at all what I thought it would be from the title and official synopsis, but I wouldn't say that's a bad thing. I may not have read the book I thought I was going to read, but the book I read was excellent none the less!

Amina is entering 10th grade at Gardner Academy, a private boarding school you generally either attend because you earned a scholarship or because something went wrong and you've been sent away. On the first night Amina attends a "game night" for incoming first years that's full of the typical icebreakers and the predictably gross and scandalous teenage questions in "Would you rather?" until someone asks the group about the end of the world. If the world were to end tomorrow and no one you knew and loved would survive, would you choose to die with them or survive and rebuild? In the coming days, Amina and four other students (including Wyatt, the boy who posed the question) form the Eucalyptus Society, a club that I like to think of as "Doomsday Preppers Lite." Over the course of their first two quarters, each of the club's five members holds a "game" to determine who would be best prepared for their end of the world scenario.

This book tackles non-Christian religion in a Christian dominated setting (specifically Judaism,) BIPOC issues and inter-racial relationships, LGBTQIA issues, and characters learning to trust and how to deal with betrayal. Content warnings for building fire linked to a hate crime (remembered event pre-book timeline), character recalling sexual and physical assault, racism, bullying, protests, and various reasons that some characters have "run away" in various degrees from their families and previous environments to this school. This book also features characters experiencing symptoms of PTSD and depression.

If I were any of the teenage club members in this book I would be Jo, the closed-off and mysterious tough girl with rainbow boot laces and an obviously tragic back story that she doesn't care to share. I adored optimistic and genuinely kind Wyatt. I was occasionally frustrated with Amina for how socially blind she was about her friends and classmates, but it did make sense as a character flaw for a 16 (15?) year old girl from a secure and unbroken family. The nativity of youth! The hate crime that drove her to anxious doomsday research is the only smudge on her rose-coloured glasses so far, and it shows. She's afraid of the system imploding in on itself, but trusts individuals implicitly. The other two cub members are Hunter, the climate activist born with a silver spoon in his mouth, and Chloe, the Instagram model who's all about influence.

What holds me back from rating this book a full five stars is that this book almost seems to forget that these are high school students attending school. Classes hardly factor into the story at all, and once Amina has won the student council election we don't see or hear what her meetings and duties are like. Her Jewish club meetings only come up when she's campaigning for student council, when Eucalyptus Society might interfere, and when the plot requires that she talk to a friend who isn't in the Eucalyptus Society. Her roommate is relevant three times, despite this taking place over half a school year. I understand that this book is about the Eucalyptus Society games and social unit, but like other YA titles I've read that take place in a boarding school setting that don't remind the reader about classes and roommates and such, it starts to feel more like college kids on a college campus. These are 15/16-year-old teens making age-appropriate snap decisions. It's important to remember how young they are.

I expected a book with outdoorsy events and actual survival situations. I got a book about troubled teens at a boarding school learning how to thrive in a found family, and I loved it! I read it in one day and really enjoyed the experience. It was well-paced (despite the lack of class & student council interludes I would have liked for the high school feel reminders) and the characters were all relatable in different ways. I will definitely be keeping my eye out for novels by Michelle Falkoff in the future!

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Note: I wrote this review for a blog tour. If you're interested in the full post and quick access to the rest of the tour, visit: westveilpublishing.com/?p=3597
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Reading Progress

November 14, 2020 – Started Reading
November 14, 2020 – Finished Reading
November 16, 2020 – Shelved
November 16, 2020 – Shelved as: read-author-requested

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