Books & Literature

Book Review: This Is The Way The World Ends, by Jen Wilde

YA THRILLER: Fans of One of Us Is Lying and The Hazel Wood are cordially invited to spend one fateful night surviving an elite private school’s epic masquerade ball in Jen Wilde’s debut thriller, This Is the Way the World Ends.

An exciting teen thriller with an autistic, queer heroine.

Feature image credit: Hachette Australia

Waverley is an autistic scholarship kid at one of the most prestigious private schools in New York. While other students have wealth to spare, Waverley gets by on tutoring gigs and the generosity of the Dean. Waverley’s socio-economic status would never have gotten her an invitation to the Dean’s exclusive masquerade, so when one of the popular girls asks Waverley to attend in her place, disguised as her, Waverley agrees, especially when she learns that her secret ex-girlfriend, the Dean’s daughter, will be there.

This Is The Way The World Ends initially feels like a teen drama, complete with a party prank in order to stalk Waverley’s ex. However, the story soon becomes something much more dangerous when Waverley stumbles into a secret meeting, witnesses a murder, and learns that the Dean, this party, and even the school may not be all they seem.

The book takes a few chapters to set the scene, and dig into who Waverley is and how she fits into this world, but once the action starts, it does not stop. The masquerade ball is one night of never-ending secrets and danger. Sometimes stories starring teens dealing with this level of danger seem unrealistic in the calm, smart way characters deal with highly traumatic experiences, but Jen Wilde manages to keep the teen characters’ reactions to events appropriate to their age while still keeping them as the heroes of the story. These characters panic, worry, argue, and in general respond in the ways real people would respond to such things.

One of the things that I loved throughout this book was the fact that it starred a neurodivergent main character, but the plot wasn’t wholly focused around her neurodivergence. Obviously, the fact that Waverley is autistic is a significant part of her character and heavily influences how she reacts to events, but the main conflict in the story isn’t related to her autism in any way. In fact, there is a good representation of diversity across the cast of characters, including gender and sexuality diversity, racial diversity, and physical disability in addition to autism representation. Author Jen Wilde is autistic, so it is no surprise that the portrayal of Waverley’s autism seems natural and authentic, but it’s pleasing to see the same care put into other characters as well, such as Pari, Waverley’s best friend who has hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.

It does feel as though the book is written with the potential for a sequel. We are left with quite a few unanswered questions, and though the initial conflict of the book has a resolution, there is a greater conflict that does not resolve. The reason and full impact of one of the major events of the book (which I’m keeping vague to avoid spoilers) is also not really explained, and even at the end of the book it remains vague and mostly unknown. The excuse is that the main character doesn’t really know what’s going on, but that this major point is not given more detail makes me wonder if a sequel is in the air. I certainly wouldn’t mind another Waverley adventure!

Reviewed by Kristin Stefanoff

The views expressed in this review belong to the author and not Glam Adelaide, its affiliates, or employees.

Distributed by: Hachette Australia
Released: May 2023
RRP: $19.99

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