January 29, 2035. That’s the day the comet is scheduled to hit—the big one.
Denise and her mother and sister, Iris, have been assigned to a temporary shelter outside their hometown of Amsterdam to wait out the blast, but Iris is nowhere to be found, and at the rate Denise’s drug-addicted mother is going, they’ll never reach the shelter in time.
A last-minute meeting leads them to something better than a temporary shelter: a generation ship, scheduled to leave Earth behind to colonize new worlds after the comet hits. But everyone on the ship has been chosen because of their usefulness. Denise is autistic and fears that she’ll never be allowed to stay. Can she obtain a spot before the ship takes flight? What about her mother and sister?
When the future of the human race is at stake, whose lives matter most?
This book starts in a stressful place. Denise, the main character, and her mother are running late for their assigned temporary shelter. At the opening, the shelter will take longer for them to get to than they have time left before the predicted comet strike. This sets the stage for Denise's interactions with her mother for the rest of the book. Her mother is unreliable, in large part due to her drug addiction, and this reader got the impression that Denise would be much better off without her mother around. For a while there I was crossing my fingers for the mother's death.
Just about everyone else in Denise's life (that showed up in the present of this book) was a more positive force. The narrative is tightly in the first person, which means that often the reader is left to draw conclusions, mostly about people, that Denise does not reach. On the other hand, the tight narrative really gets us into Denise's head and I found myself sympathising with her quite strongly. I also really enjoyed watching Denise make friends when given the opportunity outside of school; that was a real highlight.
Duyvis does a particularly good job of maintaining tension in the narrative of On the Edge of Gone. Although Denise survives the apocalypse and, since it's written in first person, her survival until the end of the book is a safe bet, there is a lot of other uncertainty. Will Denise be safe? What trouble is her mum going to get (her) into next? What will be the consequence of the risky choices Denise makes throughout the book? It was very well written. Ordinarily I would have expected this to be the sort of book that I could read in one sitting, but I found myself having to pause a few times and get some distance because it was so intense. The apocalypse is obviously always going to be somewhat depressing, but the extra layer of tension that Duyvis writes over the top of it, really brings it home.
I strongly recommend On the Edge of Gone to anyone who is interested in apocalyptic fiction, YA or otherwise. Apart from anything else, this is a solid science fiction book centred around a scientifically plausible response to a disastrous event. People interested in reading about autistic main characters should also be aware that the author herself is autistic and, as noted in the afterword, is partly writing from experience.
5 / 5 stars
First published: March 2016, Amulet Books
Series: No. But it is set in the same world as Duyvis's Defying Doomsday story.
Format read: eARC
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Disclaimer: I have worked with the author for Defying Doomsday, but I don't think that has affected the objectivity of my review