Friday, April 08, 2022

It's the End of the World

reynolds, justin a. It's the End of the World and I'm in My Bathing Suit
April 5th 2022 by Scholastic Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Eddie made a deal with his mother and stepfather-- he'll be responsible all summer, and they'll give him a little more freedom. It's gone okay all summer, but on the eve of an big end of summer bash along the shores of Lake Erie near Cleveland, he's run into a little problem. His plan was to ration his clothing and do all of his laundry at once, instead of regularly, the way his mother envisioned his end of the deal going. When she discovers that he was saving all of his dirty clothes in his closet, she cracks down-- he can't go to the bash until he does all of his laundry. He even tries to butter up his stepfather (who is NOT as good as his real father, who died two years ago) to get him to change his mind. No dice. Eddie is left to haul all of his laundry to the basement and spend at least two hours (thanks to the quick cycle) washing and drying clothes. Not far into the process, however, the power goes out. Clearly, he can't do laundry, so he starts to investigate what's going on. He runs into his friend Xavier, and later his best friend Sonia,and another friend, Trey, and his young sister Sage.They all notice that something is up with the neighborhood, since no one but the five seems to be around. The big concern, however, is that Sonia lost power in the middle of a video game, so they recreate that in the front yard. It's a lot of fun, but it makes them hungry, so they all collect junk food and have a feast. Still, there is no communication from any of their families. They spend the night, decide to "borrow" supplies from neighbors' houses, and finally come to the conclusion that they need to get to the lake to see what has happened to their families. It's too far to walk, so the obvious solution is to take Eddie's step dad's car-- a vintage Thunderbird left to him by his own father. The book ends on this cliffhanger, with the promise of a second volume. 
Strengths: The cover is fantastic, and the promise of a beach bash with picnic food, slushies, and a girl on whom Eddie is crushing is a wonderful combination. Young readers will understand Eddie's dislike of household chores and admire his plan to streamline his laundry process. The Cleveland setting is perfect, even if  "Carterville" is fictional. Eddie's step father seems like a great guy, but it's understandable that Eddie is having difficulty accepting him, since his father's death is still fairly recent. He is glad his mother is happy again, but his loss is still fresh. The idea of having the run of an entire neighborhood, and being able to break into neighbors' houses to borrow things speaks to a very deep desire to have unlimited freedom and see inside other peoples' homes-- think Nelson's The Girl Who Owned a City. There's something deeply satisfying about reading about children who have this kind of agency and opportunity to be free of adult supervision. The writing style is rather pell mell, echoing perhaps Eddie's ADHD. This has some overtones of dystopia (depending where the next book goes), but has an upbeat, fun treatment of it.
Weaknesses: 100 pages in, all that has happened is some family drama about Eddie's actions. He's still doing laundry. That is a VERY long time for, in the words of my students "Nothing to happen". By the time one of Torrey Maldonado's books would be over (150 pages), Eddie is still talking to his friends and debating what they should do. There's a lot of repetition as well. We hear many times about Eddie's older brother, how his step father isn't his Real Father, and how his laundry idea was such a great one until he gets stuck with a pile of dirty clothes. Perhaps the 1990s kids' movies on which reynolds has modeled his story operate in a similar vein, and I am just too old to understand this style. Also, what 12 year old has THAT many pairs of underwear? 
What I really think: In theory, this is a fabulous idea, but the execution is somewhat wanting for me personally. The fact that this is not a stand alone is unfortunate. I may wait to see how many books it takes to wrap up Eddie's story, and the direction the story takes, before purchasing. The cover is fantastic, and I think my readers will immediately pick it up, but I also wonder how long they will spend reading it before returning. Some of my students give up on Horowitz's Stormbreaker after three chapters because it seems to dull to them.  

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