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Apocalypse wow: In these teen books, the end comes first

Posted Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Apocalypse is defined as an event involving destruction or damage on a catastrophic scale. In each of these books, the main characters face unthinkable circumstances that force them to fight for survival. It's the end of the world as we know it, but no one feels fine.

Ashfall

by Mike Mullin

Tanglewood Press, 2012

For ages: 14 and older

When a supervolcano under Yellowstone National Park explodes, it covers the country in a blanket of thick ash and destruction. Separated from his family, Alex sets off on a dangerous mission to find them. Starving, frozen and often attacked by adults with weapons, he risks life and limb to journey across several states with the help of Darla, a companion he meets along the way.

Written in an intense style that makes readers feel as if they are choking on the ash-filled air, this book will make you question how you would react in a similar situation. Alex says, "The volcano had taken our homes, our food, our automobiles, and our airplanes, but it hadn't taken our humanity. No, we'd given that up on our own."

The supervolcano under Yellowstone really does exist. The scariest thing of all is that this story could become reality someday.

Tools needed for survival: snow skis, the ability to do taekwondo

The Forsaken

by Lisa Stasse

Simon & Schuster, 2012

For ages: 12 and older

Mexico, Canada and the United States have blended themselves into one giant supernation that controls most aspects of its citizens' lives. When 16-year-old Alenna fails a test that says she has a high propensity for violence, she is sent to The Wheel, an isolated island where all teen criminals are housed. In order to survive, she must fight her surroundings, the government and the other kids.

Eventually she stumbles on an escape plan. It only will work if the island's occupants band together. And, along the way, she discovers the government's true intention for The Wheel's inhabitants in a shocking twist that changes everything.

Tools needed for survival: independent thinking, friends

Life As We Knew It

by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Graphia, 2008

For ages: 12 and older

When an asteroid collides with the moon and knocks it off course, the Earth is swept with tsunamis, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. The destruction knocks out electricity, running water and the food supply. Fifteen-year-old Miranda and her family struggle to survive after being plunged into instant Pennsylvania winter.

Told through Miranda's journal entries, this book is intense and will leave readers feeling just as cold and hungry as Miranda's family. Miranda notes in one of her entries that she is chronicling what happens simply so there will be a record of "life as we knew it," an incredibly poignant expression of her need to leave a mark.

Tools needed for survival: a wood-burning stove, a bicycle, an older brother

Monument 14

by Emmy Laybourne

Feiwel & Friends, 2012

For ages: 13 and older

After hail the size of cars falls from the sky, 14 kids find themselves trapped inside a chain superstore with no way to contact their families. Once the hail ends, they hear radio news of an intense chemical weapon spill that prevents them from leaving the building or breathing the air outside.

The teens struggle to deal with their own emotions while caring for the littlest children. Although they have access to food and supplies inside the store, nothing can substitute for the structure of society and family that they're used to. So, what will happen when the time comes that they absolutely must band together and leave the store?

This engaging, perfectly paced book does an excellent job of showing the characters' duality; everyone has good and bad traits. The incredible relationships they form, and the individual strengths they possess, are their greatest resources. You will root for them to survive the impossible odds.

Tools needed for survival: a school bus, a fully stocked discount department store

Quarantine:

The Loners

by Lex Thomas

EgmontUSA, 2012

For ages: 14 and older

On David's first day of high school, the teachers suddenly start convulsing and then die. Soon after, a gigantic explosion destroys part of the school. And that's just in the first few pages.

Exposed to a chemical virus that kills everyone over age 18, the students are quarantined in the ruined school until they come of age. They have about 24 hours to be let out -- or they get infected and die, too.

In a story reminiscent of Lord of the Flies, the population quickly divides into groups that are violent, brutal and lacking in any supervision or control ... and they will do anything to ensure their own survival, even if it means fighting to the death for food and supplies.

This book is so frighteningly realistic that you may need to take breaks while reading, but at the same time, the story is so intensely gripping that it's difficult to put down.

Tools needed for survival: food drops, an elevator shaft, other loners

This Is Not a Test

by Courtney Summers

St. Martin's Griffin, 2012

For ages: 13 and older

Sloane is fed up with her lousy life and her abusive father. As she contemplates the only way out she can think of, there's a pounding at the door. Turns out that an infectious disease is causing people to die, and the even bigger problem? Once they die, they rise and look for more people to infect. This story is a cool twist on traditional zombie tropes.

Teens barricade themselves inside the high school. Forced to view the apocalypse through the eyes of five others who actually want to live, Sloane is conflicted about whether to even fight for survival. The author does a masterful job of showing how disconnected Sloane is from the destruction and fear, while also making the reader feel extremely invested in the group's survival.

Tools needed for survival: a stocked cafeteria, hope

Wendy Dunn is a teen programming librarian at the Central Branch of the Fort Worth Library

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