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This is Not the End

Review

This is Not the End

In 17-year-old Lake Devereaux's universe, anybody can revive the dead --- but only once, and only on the day they turn 18. So when Lake's closest (not to mention only-est) friends, Penny Hightower and Will Bryan, die just three gut-wrenching weeks away from her own birthday, this reluctant heroine must struggle through the hardest. Choice. Ever.

But as though her emotions weren't tangled enough, Lake already promised away her resurrection five years ago.

Now, let's get two things straight: you're going to hate every character in this book --- for a page or two, anyway. And you're going to savor every pang of annoyance. From Will's vacant, big-hearted chauvinism to Lake's sometimes whininess, Baker layers each and every character into a Russian nesting doll of choreographed complacence, buried longings and everyday moral shortcomings. So kudos, Baker: you somehow redeemed a gorgeous, rich protagonist named Lake from Mary Sue-dom. Now that deserves a hearty congratulations.

"Baker's society might only grasp at the dystopic, but THIS IS NOT THE END still examines a society at once imminent and unimaginable, unremarkable and monumental...."

As does the novel's entrancing, eclectic prose; from anguished confession to breezy conversation, from glimpses of lyricism to sparks of slam poetry, THIS IS NOT THE END juggles tones and sentence structures as though they were chainsaws. And nobody's going to lose an eye --- or interest.

Then again, that might be an exaggeration. Don't panic --- unless you've got a special knack for paper cuts, your eyeballs can probably survive one (or five) readings of THIS IS NOT THE END intact. But the novel's pacing does sag for a couple dozen pages. Even though Penny's human nuance emerges as the story progresses, the novel's opening does reduce her to overblown, generic bohemia.

But seriously, THIS IS NOT THE END packs in 367 pages (give or take) of raging heartache, gut-wrenching moral paradox and unexpected glimmers of redemption. You can slog through a few dozen less-than-compelling paragraphs.

As far as (barely) reimagined universes go, THIS IS NOT THE END might not boast anything particularly exotic or hair-raising. But don't worry yet, all you Hunger Games maniacs: sure, Baker's society might only grasp at the dystopic, but THIS IS NOT THE END still examines a society at once imminent and unimaginable, unremarkable and monumental --- and guaranteed to pry open the mind of every. Single. Reader.

And what's more thrilling than that?

Reviewed by Alison Stewart on June 29, 2017

This is Not the End
by Chandler Baker