You are cordially invited to spend one fateful night surviving an elite private school’s epic masquerade ball
As an autistic scholarship student at the prestigious Webber Academy in New York City, Waverly is used to masking to fit in—in more ways than one. While her classmates are the children of the one percent, Waverly is getting by on tutoring gigs and the generosity of the school’s charming and enigmatic dean. So when her tutoring student and resident “it girl” asks Waverly to attend the school’s annual fundraising Masquerade disguised as her, Waverly jumps at the chance—especially once she finds out that Ash, the dean’s daughter and her secret ex-girlfriend, will be there.
The Masquerade is everything Waverly dreamed of, complete with extravagant gowns, wealthy parents writing checks, and flowing champagne. Most importantly, there’s Ash. All Waverly wants to do is shed her mask and be with her, but the evening takes a sinister turn when Waverly stumbles into a secret meeting between the dean and the school’s top donors—and witnesses a brutal murder. This gala is harboring far more malevolent plots than just opening parents’ pocketbooks. Before she can escape or contact the authorities, a mysterious global blackout puts the entire party on lockdown. Waverly’s fairy tale has turned into a nightmare, and she, Ash, and her friends must navigate through a dizzying maze of freight elevators, secret passageways, and back rooms if they’re going to survive the night.
And even if they manage to escape the Masquerade, with technology wiped out all over the planet, what kind of world will they find waiting for them beyond the doors?
This is the Way the World Ends delivers on the diversity front in its characters but lacks the emotional connection to them. Between certain flashbacks and a plot about the world literally ending, there wasn’t enough time focused on any singular thing. There was a lot of potential but perhaps didn’t come through in a way I had anticipated while rooting for Waverly and co.
**This is the Way the World Ends comes out May 9, 2023**
Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for this copy in exchange for an honest review
This book is definitely reminiscent of the dystopian era of YA, although it starts off in a world similar to ours. You know going into the book that things aren’t as they seem, and the world may be on the brink of big changes that will impact everyone in a devastating manner. How this happens though? Now that’s the mystery, and it does unfold in an intriguing way.
Set in a prestigious New York school, we follow Waverly, one of few students who attend based on scholarship and merit instead of wealth and connections. For the most part, I liked her as a protagonist. She’s unique and stands out among the YA crowd full of heroines that all seem so…one noted. She’s autistic and deals with the world in a slightly different way than others. But that doesn’t necessarily define her, just a fact that explains how her POV makes sense.
There’s also a heavy emphasis in chronic illness among the secondary characters. From MS flares to the need for a cane with mobility, diversity is most definitely present. While it’s tempting to feel like the author just wants to add “diverse characters” into the story, I don’t feel that is the case here. These aren’t just token characters to check off a box and feel good about yourself. Their disabilities or health struggles are a part of who they are and play more of a role in the story than an adjective to describe a person.
That being said, I struggled the most with this story when it came to really connecting with the characters. They seem great and all, but why should I care? I know, it sounds harsh, but a part of me felt very disconnected from them, which isn’t great when these characters are on the run and trying to escape pending doom and death.
What the book excelled at more was laying out the end of the world plot. It felt like a quick read at times because I was anticipating with Waverly the puzzle pieces we needed to put together to understand what’s happening. The end of the world hadn’t happened yet, unlike most dystopians that already drop you in a devastated world, so it was cool seeing the transition.
Unfortunately, the plot dragged only in its flashback scenes. They’re there to add context for Waverly’s relationship with her ex, Ash. I liked Ash well enough but I couldn’t determine whether I was rooting for their present relationship or not from what little information we are presented with about her. Most of the happy parts of their relationship occurred in the past so I never got to truly feel them falling in love. In fact, the romance almost deterred some of the action in the story with the page time it was given.
Without giving away anything, I’ll say that I’m not sure how I feel about the ending. It both felt like the appropriate place to leave it while also making me wish for more. That may be a good indicator for a book. It makes you both want more and somewhat satisfied with the direction it did go in. For a debut novel, This is the Way the World Ends had some bumps but it also had some things I enjoyed for a quick read.