It is my turn on the blog tour for what is probably the book with the longest title that I have ever read! When I received the information about the tour I knew I had to take part as I have read two previous young adult books by Emily Barr, especially enjoying The One Memory Of Flora Banks. While reading this one, I definitely noticed some of her hallmarks!
Thank you very much to Dave @ The Write Reads for organising this tour, and the publisher for enabling me to obtain a free electronic copy. Also to Noly for what is perhaps her most atmospheric banner yet!
Published: 6th May 2021
Genre: Young Adult
Trigger warnings: Mental health sub-plots, animal death
This is a story about the impending apocalypse, but not in the way one might expect. A familiar concept is turned on its head as the narrative centres upon well developed characters and complex family dynamics, all taking place within an interesting variety of vibrant settings and a fast-paced plot that takes a long time to catch fire before ending on a high.
Rather than depicting an oppressive dystopian society at the end of its existence, that premise is merely a plot device acting as a backdrop to what is perhaps more of a contemporary with some minor elements of a thriller. That and the lack of genuinely high stakes for most of the book made it a neat little spin on the genre, and while it might not have been altogether successful, it was certainly an enjoyable enough read.
The news has just broken that the planet has suffered irreparable damage and everyone only has approximately nine months to live. There are many things Olivia wants to do before it happens, but she is too anxious and lacking in confidence to achieve any of them, instead taking comfort in spoiling her half-siblings and writing unsent emails to the girl she is secretly in love with.
But then she is informed of the news that her uncle who lived in the United States has passed away in a car crash, leaving behind a cousin she never knew existed. She immediately makes contact with Natasha, who comes across as self-assured and with a very positive frame of mind, everything that Olivia aspires to be.
The two eventually meet on holiday in Spain and under Natasha’s influence, Olivia becomes much more at ease with herself and around others. They soon begin to dress the same and perform magic to earn money from fellow tourists, but after spending increasing amounts of time in her cousin’s company, she begins to realise that Natasha is not what she seems.
While there is a lot said about the upcoming end of the world and the actions of the characters are largely dictated by it, this theme does not actually have a huge effect on the story as a whole. Many of the events that happen here could have taken place without the presence of that entire sub-plot and it would not have made much of a difference, although the way the author presents the doomsday scenario is intriguing.
There is no mass hysteria or desperate attempts to reverse the fate of the planet; just a general acceptance that there is not much time left and therefore everybody can live with a degree of freedom. As for the plot itself, certain elements were predictable but it really gets going towards the end, where there are plenty of questions to resolve and the odd unexpected twist.
The entire book is told in the first person from Olivia’s point of view, and the author does an excellent job of capturing her shy personality and feelings of awkwardness. This made her relatable in some ways and there is an effective contrast made between her and Natasha, who by comparison is larger than life. Despite everything she encounters and the influence Natasha has on her, Olivia’s heart is always in the right place and we get a further insight into her thoughts with the observations that are written in brackets.
Natasha’s exuberance is clear to see right from the start, but as soon as she actually meets Olivia and her family in Spain doubts about her true nature creep in and she always comes across as deceitful. All the magic tricks, fortune-telling, and her supposed ability to communicate with the dead were part of the mystery surrounding her, but for me this did get a bit too strange and also slightly tiresome.
However, she is not the only character who is hiding something. Olivia’s parents have also not been totally honest with her during her lifetime even though they seem like good people, and the sub-plot about Violet was as fascinating as it was enduring. My favourite member of the supporting cast meanwhile was Zoe, who was really kind and her relationship with Olivia becomes adorable.
The fast pace of the story means many of the settings are experienced without pausing for breath, but in spite of that the author still manages to pack in an impressive amount of detail and give everywhere a sense of place. I especially felt transported to the serene atmosphere of Moralzarzal and also the lavish hotel where Olivia and Natasha stay when they arrive in Paris.
In terms of the ending, a lot happens in a short space of time but this part of the book was rarely anything less than entertaining. There were one or two revelations which I did not see coming and some things are left to the reader to make their own interpretation, but for Olivia it turns into a journey of understanding and self-discovery.
Overall, there are a number of ideas and concepts involved in this story and they have varying degrees of success. The writing is good with Olivia’s perspective more or less spot on, and Emily Barr once again spoils us with the exotic settings. Quite whether the end of the world plotline works well is open to debate, but what cannot be denied is that it does provide an added dimension.
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐
*I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.