Monday, November 25, 2019

Review: Where the World Ends by Geraldine McCaughrean

Where the World Ends
Where the World Ends by Geraldine McCaughrean
Publication Date: December 3rd, 2019
Hardcover. 336 pages

About Where the World Ends:

"Every time a lad went fowling on the stacs, he came home less of a boy and more of a man. If he went home at all, that is.

Every summer Quill and his friends are put ashore on a remote sea stac to hunt birds. But this summer, no one arrives to take them home. Surely nothing but the end of the world can explain why they’ve been abandoned—cold, starving and clinging to life, in the grip of a murderous ocean. How will they survive such a forsaken place of stone and sea? 

This is an extraordinary story of fortitude, endurance, tragedy and survival, set against an unforgettable backdrop of savage beauty."

Where the World Ends has left me with a lot of mixed feelings. This is a really meaningful story that readily deserves the awards its won, but it also left me a little disappointed because of how it dragged and left me struggling to focus.

Where the World End takes place in the year 1727 and centers around a group of boys who travel to a sea stac in St. Kilda every summer in order to go fowling. This usually goes off without a hitch, but this year there is no boat that arrives after a couple weeks to take them home. The boys (and a couple adults) are left alone to fend for themselves. As might be expected, tensions do rise and varying levels of fear and despair set in for each  boy at different times and to different extents. Regligion and culture play a large role in this story, especially as boys begin to wonder if the world has ended and they were simply forgotten up on the sea stac.

McCaughrean seemed to do a great job of showcasing how the boys might have reacted in most these situations, but there were still some times where reactions or actions in general felt a bit uncharacteristic or confusing, which left me scratching my head more than applauding the story. I also expected there to be a bit more happening in this story in regards to the boys' survival, but it was much more about the monotonous day-to-day experiences. I don't necessarily mind day-to-day life, but in this case it just lacked anything overly compelling. This seemed like more of a character-driven story than a plot driven one, which I would have no problems with if not for the fact that I didn't particularly connect to many of the characters for a majority of the story. I found there was a quite a disconnect between much of the narrative and the characters and myself. It wasn't until the last quarter or so of the book that I found myself actually slowing down and enjoying the story more, anxious to see how it would end. I was much more connected to the main character Quill by the end and in seeing how his particular role in this journey would end and I'm excited we got to see his and the others' experiences.

Even though there was a lot (so much) description of the different birds the boys set out to capture, actually capturing the birds, cleaning the birds, and how they can use the birds, I did appreciate how much authenticity those details added to the  story. It was a little overkill at times because part of me just wanted to move on with the story, but I'd rather have too much than none at all (though of course I'd prefer a nice balance overall). Because of this and the focus on the day-to-day life of the boys that I mentioned above, I felt that the pacing dragging frustratingly slow at more than a few times. There were only a handful of moments when I was actively invested.

Despite my struggles with the pacing and feeling engaged, there's something about this book that leaves me feeling glad I read it and I still want to recommend it. There are some beautiful messages conveyed throughout this story and McCaughean has a lovely writing style that says a lot with a little and can convey bigger themes effortlessly through the actions of her characters. McCaughrean's (sometimes excessive) descriptions really bring this world to life and lets me jump into a completely new world to me of 1727 Ireland on a remote island, if only for a little bit. I'm intrigued to find out more about the people who actually lived on St. Kilda and I appreciate how much research and passion the author put into this book.

Lastly, I just want to note that I really appreciated how this book ended. It was definitely a bittersweet ending that I think provided a nice way to wrap up the story while still giving enough potential for the reader to imagine what life might continue like for the characters involved. Overall, I've given Where the World Ends 3.75 stars.

*I received an ARC of Where the World Ends courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating.*

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