If the world ends the perfect place to be is a megastore. It has everything you need, including riot gates to keep out others. That is exactly the situation 14 kids from Monument, CO find themselves in. On their way to school their buses are swamped by megahail. The high school bus crashes, the elementary bus saves them and drives into the local Greenway store (Sam’s Club/Costco/Walmart). The bus driver goes for help and leaves our intrepid group of kids to fend for themselves. They quickly discover that it isn’t just hail. A volcano has exploded and caused a megatsunami to wipe out the Eastern US. The volcano also caused massive weather patterns thus the hail. Then on top of it all their is the largest earthquake in history right there in Colorado. This earthquake wipes out NORAD and causes a chemical weapons leak with all kinds of nasty side effects. So the kids fortify and settle in for the long haul at Greenway.
Our group of kids ranges from kindergarten to seniors so we have a lot to work with. However, they are all your stereotypical characters: super jock Jake, bully/popular boy Brayden, popular girl Astrid, mothering Josie, super smart Alex, slutty wannabe Shalaiah, religious Batiste, Spanish-speaking Ulysses, boy scout Niko, been-there-done-that world weary Max, super whiny Chloe and of course cute kids Caroline and Henry. Then we have our narrator who I didn’t figure out was a boy until several pages in: Dean is nerdy, bookish, tall and skinny and of course has a crush on Astrid (who doesn’t know he is alive). Because this is a teen novel we have a love triangle (my pet peeve seriously), but not just one love triangle but two! Dean likes Astrid who is going out with Jake. Niko likes Josie who has the hots for bad boy Brayden. Not cool Laybourne…not cool. I think love triangles are such a crutch and weak writing and they really turn this book into a teen soap at times.
So the characters are all stereotypes but that really doesn’t detract from the story. With this large of a cast you expect stereotypes and the story moves along so well that it is fine. I wish there was more character growth in the book but oh well it really only takes place over 12 days so not a lot of time. All the disasters happen in the first couple of chapters and then the kids just settle in and start living in Greenway. I liked seeing how they organized their society and really they did seem to act like normal kids: playing, eating candy, raiding the pharmacy, but I wish there would have been more urgency to the story. Those first chapters really move and then everything slows down. It isn’t until the last few chapters when adults enter the story that things pick up again.
I feel like this was a wasted opportunity. After all, the world as they know it is ending and they don’t seem to react to it very much other than whining for mommy. We really don’t see much of the outside world either which is another wasted opportunity. They are in a huge store filled with supplies and no one wants in??? There are crazy people (affected by the chemical weapons) and we only see one trying to come to the store?? I think it would have been interesting if the kids had to defend the store or make more hard choices about people outside. Then when they finally do meet two people outside and let them in it is your typically storyline that you could see a mile away. <spoiler>Of course the Latino garden who all the kids love is going to turn into a pedophile. And of course the grumpy old man doesn’t survive. </spoiler>
This is sounding pretty negative but I did actually enjoy this book. Right up until the end that is. I like the psychological feel of the book even if I wished it had more action and less teen love drama. But then when the kids decide to make a run to Denver for rescue things turn stupid. <spoiler>Astrid has been an annoying character hiding for much of the book but suddenly she decides she can’t go get rescued because she turns into one of the crazies and she is PREGNANT! Seriously! You didn’t even know she was dating Jake until they came to the store and suddenly she is four months along. Then Dean, because he is a wuss and loves Astrid, decides to stay too. Even though his brother is going and he knows his parents are waiting for him. This is of course after Jake goes outside to do reconnaissance and runs away. He can’t take his loss of popularity and descent into druggiedom I guess. So since Astrid doesn’t have Jake she turns to Dean because of course she knows he likes her and he falls for that crap. Left a bad taste in my mouth and seemed really stupid to me. </spoiler>
In spite of all this I will probably read the next book because I want to know how things turn out.