This Is Not the End by Chandler Baker
Published August 8, 2017, by Disney Hyperion.
YA > Contemporary, Sci-Fi
I wonder if for the rest of my life, I’ll be haunted by beautiful days.
On one cloudless, radiant summer afternoon, Lake Devereaux lost everything. The car crash claimed the lives of her best friend and boyfriend, the people who had become her family after her own fell apart. But she doesn’t have to lose them both.
The development of resurrection technology has changed the world. Under the new laws regulating the process, each person gets one resurrection to be used or forfeited on their eighteenth birthday. Mere weeks away from turning eighteen, Lake faces an impossible choice.
Envisioning life without one of the people she loves most is shattering enough, but Lake carries an additional burden: years ago, under family pressure, Lake secretly—and illegally—promised her resurrection to someone who isn’t even dead yet.
The search for answers about her future draws Lake more deeply into the secrets of her past until she begins to question everything about those closest to her. Betrayals and hurts both new and old threaten to eclipse the memories she once cherished.
Then Lake meets a boy unlike anyone she’s encountered before, who unflinchingly embraces the darkest parts of her life . . . and who believes that all resurrections are wrong.
Which path is the right one? And how can Lake start to heal when she can’t move on?
Special thanks to the publisher for providing me with a beautiful finished copy of the book for review!
This Is Not the End is a thought-provoking and unique story about death and second chances at life. Set in the near future, science has developed a process that effectively “fixes” cells, allowing for dead cells to be brought back to life. This innovation resulted in “resurrections,” one resurrection being granted to a person on their 18th birthday to use on whom they choose. Told in the days leading up to Lake’s 18th birthday, we follow her struggle with the loss of those dearest to her, and her attempt to find a way toward closure. Don’t let the sci-fi element fool you — this reads very much like a contemporary!
I loved the emphasis on all the people in Lake’s life, and their influence on her process to decide who to use her resurrection on. She has a complex and difficult relationship with her parents and brother, Matt, resulting from a past accident leaving him a quadriplegic. And of course, there’s Penny and Will, her friends who she loves but loses too soon.
While I loved all of these characters’ parts in the story, I wasn’t a fan of the characters themselves. Lake’s parents have pretty much abandoned and placed unhealthy pressure on her. Matt became a really despicable person to Lake after the accident. I started out loving Penny and Will’s relationship with Lake, but as the story progresses we learn things that tarnish their seemingly ideal friendship, which I almost wish hadn’t been the case. It would have been interesting to see her choice play out without a reason to not choose one or the other.
All that being said, the development of these characters is wonderful. Lake herself had a great personality and I was easily able to sympathize with her tragic situation. We get to see her make hard decisions, question what her friends would have wanted regarding the possibility of resurrection, and make strides toward doing what’s best for her emotional well-being. I admired Lake for her composure and thoughtfulness.
There is a budding romance between Lake and Ringo. He was my favorite character aside from Lake. We get to learn a bit about his own personal struggles, but he also helps Lake through the emotionally heavy time before her birthday and the decision. Their romance didn’t seem out of place, which was a bit of a surprise to me, considering Lake had just lost her boyfriend. Their relationship is built on a solid friendship, that blossomed into more, which I always love!
Two elements of the story and near future world that I loved, but wished there was more of, was the commune and “death parties”. When Lake visits the commune, I felt like I jumped from reading a contemporary to a sci-fi or dystopian. It was so interesting learning more about the culture of resurrections and their reception in the community and by the resurrected. Death parties were also a dark but extremely interesting concept. The idea of illegally committing assisted suicide with the expectation of being resurrected by the person who helped the other die is morbid, but also expresses an extremely great love between two people.
This book really has a little bit of everything, from mystery to romance to sci-fi. But more than that, it made me question what I would do in Lake’s position, what I felt about the idea of resurrections. This Is Not the End was an emotionally heavy story with a hopeful and heartwarming ending. I quite enjoyed it, and would recommend it to those who love contemporary but are looking for a little something different!