Aftershocks – Marisa Reichardt – Amulet Books – Published 29 September 2020
When a magnitude 7.8 earthquake hits California, Ruby is trapped in a laundromat with Charlie, a boy she had her first conversation with only moments before. She can’t see anything beyond the rubble that she’s trapped beneath, but she’s sure someone will come save them soon. As the hours and days tick by, Ruby and Charlie struggle to stay hopeful—and stay alive. Ruby has only Charlie’s voice and her memories to find the hope to keep holding on. Will the two make it out alive? And if they do, what will they have lost to the earthquake?
How long could you survive? Faced with life and death, could you do what it takes to make it through a major natural disaster? And if you do survive, how do you know what to do next? Aftershock is an original and insightful novel about survival, friendship, doing the right thing, facing your mistakes and learning to continue to live after surviving it all, all set against the heart-stopping suspense of an earthquake.
We often hear about natural disasters on the news. The number count of who survived and who didn’t. But what about the stories of those who live through such an event? I don’t often see disaster novels come across my radar and I’m so glad I found this one. It a great mix of realistic fiction and action. Every moment is both tense and yet also introspective. It’s a story about connections. It’s a story about mistakes and learning to live with them. It’s also a story about doing the right thing in really hard situations. Aftershock touches on some interesting and important themes alongside the main story of surviving an earthquake.
Ruby has blown off water polo practice after learning her mother is dating her coach. She knows how her friends will react, especially volatile Mila. Her plan is to convince the cute guy waiting at the laundromat to buy her alcohol. What better way to drown her sorrows than getting drunk? That plan goes awry when a massive earthquake brings the building down around them. Trapped and alone, Ruby and the guy – Charlie, she learns – struggle to survive. But as they wait hours for a rescue that might never come, they find themselves sharing their secrets, regrets and a desire to do things differently once they escape.
I’ll start by saying this book didn’t unfold like I expected it to. In fact, I think it was the opposite of expected. But in a really good way. It isn’t a romance, as I expected. And the story isn’t just focused on the immediate events of the earthquake. Flashbacks and reflections to times in Ruby’s life give readers a better picture of her life and the relationships with her family and friends. It gives power to the emotions Ruby and Charlie are feeling – the guilt and regret over their last conversations with loved-ones, the desire to do something different if they could have the chance again, a new perspective on something that seemed so important but seems trivial now. This also allows the story to delve into other themes.
Both Charlie and Ruby have friends who are connected to alcoholism. Charlie shares with Ruby a story in which he tried to help someone who overdosed on alcohol and died. Ruby reflects on her best-friend’s constant need for alcohol and the ways in which it has changed her and their friendship. Both Charlie and Ruby reflect on their actions and their guilt that they couldn’t do more. It’s a powerful way of addressing teen alcohol use and abuse.
A gripping story about survival – both in the midst of a disaster and in all the moments that follow – that will stay with readers long after they finish the story.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Young adult fiction
Themes: Survival, earthquakes, natural disasters, water polo, grief, family, friendship, alcohol addiction.
Reading age guide: Ages 12 and up.
Advisory: Infrequent coarse language, f*** (3), sh** (8), as***** (2), pi** (2). References to alcohol use, intoxication, alcohol addiction, overdose and death. Sexual references. References to injuries, death.
Published: 29 September 2020 by Amulet Books
Format: Hardcover, ebook. 400 pages.