Things to Do Before the End of the World, by Emily Barr

readerandom's review against another edition

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I received this as an ARC via NetGalley, but this has in no way had an impact on my review.

Things to do Before the End of the World - a YA apocalyptic thriller - written by Emily Barr who is well-known for her YA writings. This is my first time reading a book of her's, and honestly, I am not sure what to think of it.

Libby is a young teen girl who is very introverted and does not have high thoughts of herself as a person. The moment we step into the story we're presented with the date for the end of the world, and this is when Libby decides that she'll try and live her life. Joining the theatre group and interacting with Zoe - her crush - is a great start. Libby's estranged uncle dies in a traffic incident and here she comes in contact with her cousin, Natasha, whom she didn't know existed. Several times throughout the beginning, we are introduced to the idea that Libby has wanted a sibling close to her age, instead of her two half-siblings on her father's side who are both toddlers. She wishes that she had someone that could look out for her as her little sister looks out for their little brother. She speculates, that if she had had a big sister she would have been a different person today. Someone she'd like to be. So when Natasha shows up, it's almost as if her wish has been granted. Natasha challenges Libby to get out of her shell, but there is something off about the cousin - which Libby overlooks both in the excitement of having someone looking out for her and the impending doom that is the end of the world.

Getting into this story, I was under the impression that the end of the world would be more important for the story, but it feels more like a backdrop for a YA thriller. The thing is, even though the end of the world isn't the main part of the plot it still takes up a lot of space in the story. There are interactions between Libby and Natasha, but we're already halfway through the book when they finally get to meet each other IRL. At least, that's how it feels. The first half feels like a filler episode we get before the plot-filled episode. I'm not sure if it's due to the writing style, but I did feel like I was just waiting for things to happen. We get a lot of plot and actions in the last 1/3 of the book which I really enjoyed. It was here I wouldn't put the book down until I had gone to the end (no pun intended). But the ending itself just happened so quickly and I would have liked to get more of an opportunity to enjoy the end. The ending was still satisfying and tied up the story very well - it just felt rushed.

I thought the end of the world would be more important, but it serves as a backdrop of a coming-of-age story mixed with a thriller. This is probably why I didn't enjoy the book as much as I could, my expectations for the book might have ruined it a bit for me.

Sidenote: I know we aren't supposed to judge a book by its cover, but the cover definitely gave me a 28 Days Later vibe, which has affected my expectations of what kind of book I was getting.

If you want to read a coming-of-age story mixed with a thriller I definitely will recommend this book for you.

tessa_talks_books's review against another edition

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Things to do Before the End of the World is a powerful coming of age story that reminds the reader that our impact on the environment could mean our ultimate extinction.

What I Liked

The timing of this story is even more impactful because of our current world situation. Much like the environment in the story, I don’t think anyone believed our world would come to a standstill due to a disease. Beyond comprehension, with our explosive advancements in every area, anything cannot be quickly neutralized so that our lives remain the same. But, as we have seen, that isn’t true. That made me think twice about the story’s message as I imagine it will other YA readers – young and old.

I found Olivia’s coming of age story to also be impactful in an unexpected, inspiring manner. She starts the story as a girl who is scared to live her life – to enjoy everything life has to offer, even if it is right in front of her. Olivia writes emails that she doesn’t send or intends to send to a girl for which she has feelings. She keeps her circle very tight and doesn’t venture outside of that circle, considering invisibility to be her superpower until she meets her cousin through an email after learning about her existence. Natasha has a significant impact on Olivia’s life, and the story of their relationship is such a compelling storyline that it is hard to put the book down once Natasha appears.

The pace stays quick throughout the story as I waited to see if life really would end on September 17. It can’t end, right? Or can it? I found myself imagining what the world would be like if everyone knew the exact day, it would end. I pictured a society turning very hedonistic in my mind, but if you want to find Barr’s thoughts, you will have to pick up this book.

This story has a lingering effect - my thoughts returning to what I would do if I knew the exact date the world would end. I love that it has me asking tough questions of myself and society as a whole and making me contemplate if the changes I would make knowing the world was going to end are changes that I should be making now.

To Read or Not to Read

If you are ready to have your world change, this is the book that will take you there.

joujou_darrigood's review against another edition

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adventurous lighthearted reflective fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes


abigail00's review

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adventurous mysterious tense fast-paced


hannargh's review against another edition

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Who knew that YA pre-apocalyptic thriller was a genre I was missing? Apparently Emily Barr did because that was something I've never read before, and I found myself getting really into it!!

I'll be honest, I was expecting to be sceptical about this book. I was anticipating more YA 'finding yourself' story than thriller. Even better, the thriller part of the story very slowly creeps up on you. You know that something isn't quite right but, with something like the end of the world coming, you can imagine why someone might overlook some of the obvious tells ...

In fact, all of those elements - of the teenager who is cripplingly shy and anxious and is desperate to be a slightly different person but doesn't know how, the backdrop of the end of times creeping ever closer, and the young woman who isn't quite what she seems - somehow work perfectly together. The author is playing her own game of smoke and mirrors and misdirection by presenting all of these elements together so that you are so overwhelmed by what appears to be going on, that you miss everything else. And I've got to say, that's some pretty clever writing.

The impending apocalypse - the melting of the permafrosts and the irreversible end of a breathable atmosphere - and the world's reaction to time ticking away is also frighteningly believable. The majority of people are going about their daily lives, because perhaps the problem will be resolved before time is up, and what else can you do anyway? There seems to be a collective decision made that the last few months will be one epic 'see the world' party, but until then you go to school and you work each day and you hope it won't really happen.

Libby's own growth throughout the story is surprising and steady. Thanks to the arrival of her estranged cousin she is being forced to come out of her shell; to learn slight of hand street magic, to talk with people, to stand up for herself. But can she use those skills when it really matters? And when being with the people you love matters more than everything else?

Although the end of the world should be taking precedence, Libby's time with her family starts to raise questions - why is her mum distrustful of her cousin Natasha? Who is Violet? What happened between Libby and Natasha's dads? I can't really go into explaining the plot without giving it away. But it has TWISTS. Just like the end of the world (The Creep) these twists creep up on you too - you sort of know that they are there, and then bam! Surprise!

I would have liked to have seen more of the pre-apocalyptic element - we see some signs of the end of times, but a lot of people also seem to be behaving rationally and calmly. There is talk of looting and fires and rioting, but we don't see those as much as you might expect, particularly given that there are a lot of scenes set in Madrid, Paris and finally London. I can understand why we don't - Libby herself is actively trying to avoid knowing anything, her mum and stepdad are trying to keep her calm and happy and, with everything going on with her and Natasha, she would be quite distracted ... but still, I would have liked a little more.

But I also loved the UK setting - the references to college and Sixth Form. It all just made sense and (for this Brit reader) made the whole apocalypse feel understated and understandable.

A really pleasing 4.5 stars (rounded down to 4) for this book!

I received an eARC of this book from NetGalley, the publishers and The Write Reads in exchange for an honest review.

booksattwelve's review

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lpf0327's review

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adventurous emotional hopeful reflective medium-paced


kerrimcbooknerd's review against another edition

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Thank you to Dave @ The Write Reads, the publisher, and Netgalley for providing me with a free e-ARC in exchange for an honest review!

I’m going to be honest with y’all right now… I went into this book thinking it was a straight up contemporary. Why? Because I clearly forgot about that fact after signing up and I like to go into books without really reading the synopsis. So imagine my pleasant (if somewhat confusing) surprise when, as I read the book, I started getting those distinct, thriller vibes!

This story follows our main character, Olivia, who is a painfully shy young woman who is trying to come to grips with the fact that the atmosphere of Earth will become unlivable in a few short months. She doesn’t know what to do or, rather, she knows she’d like to travel and come out of her shell, but she feels powerless to do so. Enter Natasha, her mysterious cousin who Olivia didn’t even know existed. Soon, she’s taking risks she never would have before and trying to live it up as best she can before the world ends. But Natasha isn’t everything she seems to be.

Even though I went into this book with the completely wrong mindset, I found myself enjoying it! I loved the sinister tone that flows throughout the story. It made reading this book an adventure in tension, lol. There were several times that I could feel myself getting anxious as we followed Olivia and Natasha on their adventures. I loved it, though! I also really enjoyed the writing. It flowed rather well and made this book an incredibly easy read. I flew through the pages! If you’re looking for a fast and compelling book that you can more than likely read in a day, this would be a good pick.

I also thought that Olivia was a fantastic character. She came to life on the page! I could feel her anxiety and all her varying and wavering emotions. I did have the urge to shake her a few times, but it was intriguing watching her relationship with Natasha develop. It was just fascinating and, I think, my favorite part of the book!

I will say that a lot of the plot was pretty straight-forward. I saw most of it coming, which isn’t ideal for a thriller, but I still had a good time reading it. And the fact that I really enjoyed Emily Barr’s writing makes me want to give her other books a go.

Final thoughts: This was a tense, dark young adult thriller that is fast-paced and intriguing. Though the plot is pretty straight-forward and the twists weren’t all that surprising to me, I still found myself really enjoying the writing and the complex main character. Emily Barr has a way with words that will make you feel almost as anxious as Olivia as you follow her story! If you enjoy thrillers that also feature a coming-of-age plotline, I think you would really enjoy Things to Do Before the End of the World!

aidanreads_'s review against another edition

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challenging dark emotional mysterious tense fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? It's complicated
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes


danielsreadingthoughts's review against another edition

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adventurous hopeful fast-paced