The News from the End of the World (★★★★☆)

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Emily Jeanne Miller   *   Houghton Mifflin Harcourt   *   February 21, 2017   *   288 Pages

Advanced Reader Copy provided through Amazon Vine.

After getting fired from his job and kicked out of his house by his fiance, Vance Lake has decided to surprise his twin brother, Craig, with an unannounced visit. Hoping to lay low for a few days while he sorts out his life, Vance is surprised to discover that Craig is experiencing some major turmoil of his own. Though everyone is hush-hush at first about the source of the tension, eventually Vance comes to understand that Craig’s 17-year old daughter, Amanda, is pregnant.

Vance is, naturally, shocked to discover his favorite niece is expecting, and he’s sad that everyone, especially Amanda, is struggling so much. While he knows he doesn’t have a reputation for being the solid and dependable one of the family, he becomes determined to help and comfort in whatever way he can. Unfortunately, Craig just seems to want Vance to leave. The book is told from alternating perspectives and takes place over a period of four days–which, apparently, is just enough time for this flustered family to kick up some serious, Bravo-level drama.

The crazy thing about this book is that I enjoyed reading it more than I enjoyed the actual story. Which basically makes no sense, I know. All I can say is that, on the one hand, I was dead to the world while I was reading this book. I was hooked from the first page and desperate to get to the last with as few interruptions as possible. There is just such delicious family drama here, and the characters are so realistically developed, so endearingly flawed. I couldn’t put it down.

But on the other hand, the book still disappointed me–especially after I finished it. Once I knew all the secrets, I realized, looking back, that interactions between characters could have been a lot tighter and more forthright. I think author Emily Miller drags out certain plot points too long–probably because she wants to build tension and suspense–but it irritated me to have so many hints of a Big Reveal and then take forever to just get there already.

Also, when it came time to wrap everything up, the ending, ironically, felt abrupt and unfinished. Where does Vance go from here? What happens in his relationships with Celeste, Gina, and Craig? What happens with Helen? And what about Craig’s job situation? I was left with all these unanswered questions, and that was a bummer.

One thing I do really appreciate about the book, though, is that Miller deals with the issue of teen pregnancy and abortion in an honest, thoughtful, and balanced way. I can’t think of too many authors who have tackled this tricky and emotionally-charged subject as effectively as Miller does here. In my opinion, Amanda’s story arc is perfect.

So this one gets four stars from me. Despite some flaws, it was so fun to read. I will definitely be on the lookout for new books from Emily Miller.

 

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