Book Club in Session: In the End (In the After Book 2) by Demitria Lunetta

In The End In The After
Lauren: What do you do after you find out that your mom is responsible for ending the world? The only thing you can do – go find another boy to crush on! Yay young adult dystopia!

When we last saw our protagonist Amy, she and Baby (her “sister”) were living in New Hope, safe and sound from the aliens that like to eat any and every human they find roaming around the world that was. Then Amy found out some secret info about New Hope and the origins of the aliens, consequently getting sent to the psych ward where her brain was temporarily wiped, before escaping. Now she’s out on her own again, this time without her little sis.

***Warning: Spoilers Throughout!***

Like with the last book I read, Rebirth, I found myself reading the second half of another duology with In the End, the sequel to In the After. Who knew this two-part series setup was so popular! Unlike Rebirth, which felt as if it should have been spread out into three books to breathe, In the End is a smooth enough success at storytelling that another novel isn’t needed to tell the story. Maybe an epilogue, but not a whole third book; (We’ll come back to that later.)

But first before we get into all that, let’s hear what Heather thought of book one since she just read it recently.

Heather: I loved book one. It was Amy and Baby against the world for much of the book before they got picked up by a strange aircraft and whisked away to the colony of New Hope (although I think False Hope is probably the more aptly suited name). I’m not entirely sure what more I can say about book one that you haven’t already said (see Lauren’s original review here). I wasn’t quite taken with her love interest in New Hope, I thought that part was kind of forced and I have no idea how these characters fall in love so quickly! I guess it is slim pickins once the “aliens” killed most of civilization, so you need to be the first to jump on any opportunities before someone else comes and steals your man/lady? I don’t know.

While I feel like book one built in ample time to develop new characters and allow the reader to soak in this unfamiliar world, the second book (especially the ending) seemed entirely too rushed. I, like you, don’t think there necessarily needed to be a third book, but book two should have definitely been a bit longer. There were so many questions left unanswered at the end! And then, like you said, because we can’t possibly have a female lead without some boy candy on her arm, we had to add an additional love interest for her while she was away from New Hope. And although I was much more a fan of the new guy than the old one, I still think it was a little too “wham, bam, I’m in love, I would do anything for you” within far too short a period of time. Granted Amy didn’t feel that way immediately, but she sure did have the guys swooning over her.

Lauren:  Heather, these are prison rules, and as someone who has watched Orange is the New Black then you know the first thing you need to do as a pretty lady is get someone to protect you.  So-So had to do it, and now so does Amy.  Especially considering there is a murdering rapist living nearby.  If we want to give the author more credit, we could say that she recognizes that Amy has been living a pretty lonely life past the outbreak, so it’s not completely unwarranted that she would latch on to people faster than she might in a different situation.  Or we could just keep it simple and say the author realized that there needed to be another male lead out of necessity for Amy to assimilate into this new society, and then seeing the genre and audience she was writing for, it had to progress into a love triangle.  It just had to.

Then again, if Brenna can survive without a man then Amy should have been able to as well. With all of her Guardian training she would have been perfect for the fight club!  This might tread on the feet of some other YA series out there right now, but it would have been a way to avoid one of the typical tropes.  Personally, I’m fine that the author didn’t though, but I find tattoos sexy.  Which is why they should have come back around before the book ended!  I thought Jacks’ choice to stay at the prison was pretty stupid because there was nothing left there for him, and if his feelings for Amy were as strong as we were lead to believe then there’s no way he would have let her go back to New Hope alone.  But on top of that, not having them reunited was even more awkward if we are supposed to truly be invested in her relationships (another thing that could have possibly been rectified had the ending been a little stretched out).

Heather: Yes, I was definitely looking for a reunion of characters at the end. But more than that, I just wanted to know what happened next. Is New Hope really going to be OK accepting Amy’s mom as their new leader? And merging the prison population with New Hope seems like a disaster waiting to happen. For one thing, they are going to have to supply a lot more resources to the inhabitants to take care of all those extra people. And to say the prison crowd was a little rough and tumble is a huge understatement.  Mixing these sheltered New Hope people with law breakers and rapists does not seem like it is going to go over well. I can’t imagine the population of New Hope is going to be all that happy with its leaders for giving the OK for that to happen.  What did you think of the way the author chose to end this series? I feel if something is going to be a sequel and have us invest in two books, then it should at least give us some better closure than that!

Lauren: I was really hoping we’d get to hear the speech Amy’s mom was going to give to everyone. I don’t need to see the society actually coming together and working, that’s too much, but at least go out on a high, hopeful note with some uplifting speech that allows the reader to believe it’s all going to be OK.

Then again, the way the book ended does lead to that conclusion thanks to how they concluded Baby’s story, which actually brings us to my biggest problem with this sequel. Like you mentioned earlier, book one was Amy and Baby against the world, and the majority of In the After only works because of our investment in those characters and their relationship. Yet at the end of book one when Amy escapes, she is forced to leave Baby behind. Because of this, we barely see Baby at all  in In the End as she is solely used as Amy’s motivation.

To replace this relationship, other characters are brought in, from Jacks to Brenna. And as much as I liked tattoo boy and swooned as I was supposed to, I actually really liked a lot of the scenes between Amy and Brenna more just because Brenna has a far more entertaining personality.  Their adventure outside the walls of the prison was probably my favorite part of the book because of what they go through, the suspicion of Brenna, her hero moment, and then her near death experience.  Plus she helped take out Tank, which was a huge cheer moment (though it was short lived.  Expectedly so, albeit still pretty stupid and unbelievable that he managed to survive and make it back to the prison). But in the end (hey look what I did there!) it all comes back to Baby.

To wrap it up quickly, the whole story has a very The Last of Us feel in which our main characters struggle with the whole “one vs many” question concerning what you are willing to risk for the greater good.  Amy, acting very emotionally, is fighting for the “one” because Baby means everything to her, but it is still a little hard for me to accept that she was willing to throw Brenna into the role of lab rat in order to free Baby. That’s just cold. Luckily we don’t have to worry about that when all is said and done (seriously, any gamers out there who have yet to, play The Last of Us because this is one of the greatest stories I’ve ever experienced that handles this struggle, not to mention one of my favorite video games period).

Where was I going with all of this? Oh yeah! Even if the mentioned video game does it better, I was OK with the motivation Amy has to get back to Baby. We have to get back to her! Then we find out that Baby has forgotten who Amy is, and doesn’t want to be rescued. Stuff happens, aliens are let loose, doctors die, then everything ends. But before it does, Baby remembers Amy. Obviously this is what we want to happen because it would be too devastating for her not to remember her sister after all this, but it just happens so quickly!  Which brings us back to needing an epilogue or something. In addition to seeing the speech from Amy’s mom about the future plans, they needed to have Amy working with Baby to gradually bring her memory back. That would have been way more satisfying than just throwing it in as it was. It’s the correct moment to end the story on, but it still could have been written better, as opposed to being rushed and squeezed in as it was.

Yes that was a long winded way to get to that final point…

Heather:Yep, rushed and underdeveloped pretty much sums up my opinion of the end of this book. And how dare you bring up a video game in our discussion. You know I have no ideas what you are talking about (although Zach did make me watch the intro set up to that game because he thought I would enjoy it).

Lauren: Did he make you watch the first 10 or so minutes of the gameplay?  Because if not, he should.  And you should see the end.  Granted you would need to experience the whole game in order to care… Watch him play the whole thing!  Better yet, just play it yourself!

But back to In the End.  To sum it all up, there are some definite problems with the end of this series that we’ve pointed out in great detail, but it’s in no way as disappointing of a conclusion as the final book in the Divergent series if you want a comparison.  And In the End isn’t without its strengths on the whole.  I’ve already mentioned my fondness of Brenna, and overall I definitely enjoyed the story, the range of characters, the aspects of this new world we’re seeing and what the characters are willing to do to “fix” it, and the conflicts, from Tanks pervy lurking to the doctor going off the deep end, and I may have fallen for the love story more than I should have.  I just couldn’t help it.

Heather: Yea, it was good, but good riddance I say! On to bigger and better! Now I am just waiting for the next book to come out to follow up The Fifth Wave. That better not disappoint!

Lauren and Heather’s Final Grade: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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