Book Review: This Is Where The World Ends

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Title: This Is Where The World Ends

Author: Amy Zhang

Rating: 3/5 stars

Series? No

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This Is Where The World Ends is filled with beautiful and haunting writing. Part teenage love story, part whodunnit mystery – it’s enthralling and engaging. However, the characters and relationship fell a little flat for me, robbing the book of its full impact.

Everything ends. This is obvious. This is the easy part. This is what I believe in: the inevitable, the catastrophe, the apocalypse.

This-Is-Where-The-World-Ends

Once upon a time, there was twelve princesses. No, wait. There was only one princess, and one prince. They snuck out of the house at night and danced in the moonlight.

Firstly, I would like to say that Amy Zhang can write. I found out that she’s currently in her teens – which is at once astonishing and thrilling, as I can’t wait to read what she pens next. Her proses are simple yet lyrical, cutting you right to the bone with each sentence. With This Is Where The World Ends, Zhang also employs imageries wonderfully – alluding to both fairy tales and apocalypses with poetic ease. Although the book is realistic fiction and strictly confines itself to the contemporary world – the whimsical nature of the writing pushes past these boundaries. At times, it felt like I was reading magical realism, which is one of my favourite genres!

They press and press information, but my brain is liquid. The touch the surface and it ripples and then it goes blank again.

The set up of the plot is also endlessly intriguing. I devoured this book in about two hours in my eagerness to get to the bottom of its mystery. It alternates between two point of views and timeline. Firstly: Micah’s present narrative: desperate to piece together the night of the fire – although his mind has been hopelessly altered by the event. Secondly: Janie’s everyday girl musings of the events leading up to the incident. We also get glimpses of Janie’s fairy tale journal – complete with intricate Skarpie (it’s cheaper than Sharpier!) doodles – and a perfect echo of her chaotic, imaginative and inimitable soul. It was a great analogy for the events in her life – and by the time you finish this book, you’ll understand that metaphors are everything to Janie.

She always kept a marker and a match and at least five rocks in her pocket: the marker to write, the match to wish and burn, and the rock to keep her grounded.

While it should be quite obvious that I was smitten by the writing and the structure of the narrative, the book falters when it comes to characterisation. I truly struggled to relate to Janie – she was a dichotomy: part manic pixie dream girl, part spoilt rich kid caricature. Janie believes in fire and permanent markers and solid rock. Janie believes in art and self-expression. Janie believes that Micah is her soulmate. Yet, Janie is also trapped in the makings of societal expectations. She dates popular jocks and hangs out in what self-stylised ‘convenient friendships’. She refuses to acknowledge Micah’s existence at school. She lives according to the very rules that she despises. Small acts of rebellion aside, Janie was quite the hypocrite. Of course, that was the point and the tragedy of it all – but I just did not find her endearing. I felt that we needed to get into her head space a little more – as I was never truly invested.

She said that we shared a soul. What does that mean? She said that we were an atom. I don’t know, Dewey. I think she’s crazy.

Then there’s Micah, who’s passive personality grates me to no end. He simultaneously assumed to role of childhood love, soulmate, and nice guy – always there for Janie but never having his love reciprocated fully. All he gets are stolen moments in the dead of the night, as they played at being Justice around town. Micah constantly allowed himself to be manipulated by Janie – every time he seems to be free from her influences, he slips right back in. It’s an uncomfortable, almost abusive relationship – with Micah being equally at complicit. He lacked his own identity and was constantly being moulded and lead by Janie.

No one is going to believe me.
No one is going to help because no one is going to listen, because he told his story first and he told it better.

However, just as the book is meandering on about what seems to surmount to a teenage love triangle – the book sucker punches you with its main theme: probably readily apparent to anyone who has looked at the cover in detail. Janie’s tragedy is not confined to an identity crisis or her selfishness – she also becomes a  victim of slut shaming and sexual assault. The book offers no easy way out and solution, instead – we are faced with the full brunt of the ugliest side to high school bullying. It’s difficult and uncomfortable, it gets under your skin. Needless to say, the book is not one for the faint-hearted.

Despite the book’s heavy issues and grand mystery – my conflicting feelings regarding characterisation and relationships meant that I was robbed of the book’s climactic impact. I have the sneaking suspicion the book wanted me at some corner in foetal position by its conclusion – instead, I was dry-eyed and felt somewhat cheated of my emotional catharsis. This book could have been so much more, I wanted it to be so much more!


Aside from my issues with characterisation – I think this is one beautifully written novel. As the issues and character dynamics the novel deal with is so extreme, I think you’ll have to check this one out yourself before passing your verdict.

32 thoughts on “Book Review: This Is Where The World Ends

  1. What a beautiful review and my gosh that graphic is breath taking Aentee! Your thoughts on this book funnily echo my thoughts on Falling into Place – it was beautifully written, hard hitting in all the right places but had some issues with characterisation/execution.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! I might reuse the design in one of my invites designs lmao *cheap* I need to read Falling Into Places bc I love her writing here– and she does the mystery angle quite well.

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  2. I don’t know how she does it, but Amy Zhang’s writing is just INCREDIBLE. Like I’m still trying to string sentences together and here she is with two books under her belt. So I definitely still have to read this, despite the problems you had with characterisation (a lot of people found that with her first book, too, but I didn’t really mind…so maybe I won’t have the same problem?). Either way, lovely review xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s just not fair is it?! But your own work is quite gorgeous in its own right! And I think a lot of people had issues with this book bc it reminded them of John Green? I have never read John Green so I have a higher tolerance for it 😂

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  3. Omg I agree with EVERYTHING. I also wasn’t a fan of the characterisation and my first thought was also ‘manic pixie dream girl’. The book pretty much reminded me of everything I didn’t like about Paper Towns when it came to the characters. But the story was pretty well done and I cried a little when it was over.

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    • I am not at all familiar with John Green’s work but I can 100% understand why so many bloggers seem to think this book followed his formula in terms of characterisation. The writing though, I would totally still read her next book!

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  4. I didn’t know she was just a teen! That’s amazing that her writing is so beautiful though. I’m in love with the writing just from your description of it.
    I do struggle with books when I can’t form a connection with the characters though so I think that would really frustrate me. And also love triangle.
    Ha! I hardly ever cry with books you’re supposed to cry at either, so I totally get you.
    Great review, Aentee! I might have to think about this one a bit more, but the writing is calling to me! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s 100% unfair that a teen wrote this, I can barely string together sentences for my book reviews and she wrote entire books with such poise.
      I think the writing managed to carry the story even though the characters were frustrating. Would love to hear what you think of it if you decide to check it out, Nick.

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  5. Yes! I had the same issues you did. The friendship was rather unhealthy – Micah had no sense of personality apart from how he was in relation to Janie, and Janie had few redeeming qualities herself. I did find the writing compelling though, but apart from that…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, Micah pre and post amnesia were basically the same – that’s some character fail right there lol.

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  6. Great Review! This sounds like a pretty intense read! I haven’t read this book but I’ve seen lots of mixed reviews so I’m a bit hesitant to pick this up because characters are the main thing that I always look forward to.

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    • I think the writing saves the book even though the characterisation are at best confusing, would love to hear what you think when you do read it though – Raven.

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  7. Oh oh I definitely agree that it’s beautiful! And Amy Zhang’s writing is aaamazing. LIKE SHE IS SO VERY TALENTED AT WORDS. But the characters?!? I honestly ended up despising them all, 😦 plus I felt the plot was rather cliche. When one gets a manic pixie dream girl, it’s VERY easy to predict it’s going to end in crashing and burning, right? Gah. Plus I don’t even understand WHY Janie shunned Micah in school but then told him she loved him sooo much…and yet refused to date him? I felt she was manipulating and psychologically bullying him in a way? It was really worrisome for me. So yeah…not so much my favourite at all. But I did really like Amy Zhang’s first book, Falling into Place!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • The characters are definitely very frustrating – Janie’s turmoil sounded deep and complex on paper until you take a step back and it’s all WTF girl, why are you hanging out with people you dislike? I honestly don’t even get it. I need to check out Falling Into Places though.

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    • The author has a way with words so despite the book’s shortcomings characterisation wise, I am glad I read it!

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  8. Whoa what. Amy Zhang is in her teens ??
    I HAD NO IDEA. Respect to her :O
    I’m super glad to writing is awesome~ It makes me kind of sad that the characterisation is eh though. Still, I’m very interested in this book, because I read another book by her once, and I remember really liking it! 😀

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  9. I’ve never actually read this book and never a fan of contemporary but I’ve heard a lot of mixed reviews about this book. And I also feel you when you said that you want it to be something more. I had also felt that way before towards certain book. It’s like I know that the writing is exquisite along with the story but there’s just something lacking. I couldn’t quite put my finger into it. Anyway, great review Aentee!

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  10. She really can write beautifully! I read her book last year and even though a lot of people didn’t like it, I still did. It was a haunting book. But, sometimes I need more than pretty writing.
    I have the audiobook for this one and I hope I like it.

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  11. Wait, what? Amy Zhang is a teenager? Do you understand you correctly? I had no idea. I love how you described her writing, “Her proses are simple yet lyrical, cutting you right to the bone with each sentence”. I’m actually not a fan of magical realism, I prefer contemporary, but I love your quotes. Also it’s so unexpected that this book deals with such serious topic. Now I’m intrigued and I’m willing to give this book a try. Such a beautiful review, Aentee!

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  12. Okay so I really feel like I would fall in love with Zhang’s writing, but the lack of characterization makes me EXTREMELY wary. Do I want to sit through beautiful proses while watching Janie act so hypocritically and Micah like such a love sick fool? I’m not exactly sure! But I’ve also had this book for review for months, so I guess I should definitely pick it up – if only for the compelling writing. Thanks for this wonderful review Aentee! (and the absolutely lovely quotes)

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  13. This is an amazing review! I really liked Amy’s debut novel, so I’m hoping that I will like this book as well. I also love magical realism, so I’m hoping that that pulls me in more so than the characters. Maybe it will make up for it? Or maybe I won’t mind the characters 😉

    I think you have convinced me to pick this up! It’s also pretty short too, it seems like!

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  14. I’m sorry this one flopped a little for you! I haven’t read a book by this author, but it’s amazing that she has 2 (maybe more? idk) books published, and she’s only in her teens. I really want to read this one – the plot appeals to me so much, and the fact that it deals with dark and important messages very relevant to today’s society makes me so excited. I’m a little wary of the writing and the characters now, though! I think with contemporaries, the characters are the most important aspect, so I’m sorry you didn’t connect with them very well!

    Fabulous review, as always, Aentee! ♥
    Denise | The Bibliolater

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  15. I recently devoured this same book and was enthralled, but thoroughly heartbroken by it. Amy Zhang is a terrific writer and I would love to read more of her books. Your review was very pointed and brought out some interesting angles that I had not considered before. (I would like to read the book again, perhaps gaining a bit more perspective this time.) While Janie’s character was erratic and certainly out of the ordinary, I feel I still related and became attached to her character. This is most likely for two reasons: I know someone very similar to Janie and I could see some of myself in Janie as well. (Which was not always comforting.) Perhaps it was simply Zhang’s writing, but I found myself very caught up in each characters’ thoughts, especially Micah’s; I feel I related to him the most. I’m not sure what I meant to achieve with this comment 😂 but I simply wanted to point out that I believe Zhang’s characterization was successful in moving me, at least. Again, very skilled review; thank you for taking out the time to share your thoughts. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad to hear that you found Janie relatable. It’s wonderful that we can all take such different things from fictional characters. Amy Zhang is definitely a very gifted writer!

      Liked by 1 person

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