This Is Not the End

In Lake's world, scientists are intelligent enough to have discovered a way to bring people back to life. However, politicians are clueless enough that they've limited access to this amazing resurrection technology to a one-time use for people on their 18th birthday. Though many teens might approach turning 18 with trepidation as a result, 17-year-old Lake's parents made her promise years ago illegally to resurrect her (as of now still alive) paraplegic brother, who will have full mobility upon resurrection. Despite her discomfort, Lake is so focused on her life with boyfriend Will and best friend Penny on their "own little self-sustaining island" that she's willing to go along. When both Will and Penny die three weeks before her birthday, though, everybody's plans fall to pieces. Under pressure from three sets of desperate parents and "beginning to feel the constant nothingness like an ulcer drilling a hole through the lining of [her] gut," Lake's sense of self erodes. As much of what she knew shifts beneath her, she begins to wonder whether to abandon the idea of resurrection entirely.

Given the intense pressure Lake is under, This Is Not the End is heavy on the melodrama, and teens who love high stakes and strong emotion will be hooked by the third chapter. Chandler Baker's previous book (Alive) is a thriller and also built around an 18th birthday, and here she once again uses a small shift in the rules of reality to amplify the anxieties of becoming an adult. In addition to heightening tension with sci-fi elements, Baker effectively develops many strands of emotional complexity to hold the story together, and the payoff is substantial. --Stephanie Anderson

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