I really need to start reading book descriptions again before I dive into the book, because when I opened this one I once again found myself in a book that was not anything I thought it would be--a situation that could have been easily avoided if I had read the description. After the End starts off like any old post-apocalyptic book. Juneau is living in Alaska, one of the last "clean" places on Earth after the nuclear apocalypse of World War III. She and her clan live in peace, but fear marauders who might come in from outside and ruin everything they've worked so hard to protect. Juneau is also in training to become a sort of shawoman for her clan. And then, her clan is suddenly kidnapped, leaving Juneau with just her dogs, her skills, and some supplies. She sets out to find and rescue her people, only to find something else entirely--World War II never happened, there was no nuclear apocalypse, and she's been living a lie her entire life. And now she's on the run because people are hunting her down, wanting something she has but might not even know about.
The book alternates between Juneau's point of view and that of Miles, the son of the guy who wants to catch Juneau. Miles sets out to find her in order to get back in his father's good graces, and the two quickly end up on a road trip in search of Juneau's clan--she won't go to Miles' father until her family is found. This is definitely a road-trip style book. There is a lot of driving, and there's not always a lot going on during the driving. The interspersing of supernatural or paranormal events helps; Juneau uses her skills as a shawoman to decide which way they're going and to evade pursuers. It's made a little more difficult by the fact that Miles, reasonably, thinks that Juneau is off-her-rocker crazy. You can't really blame him. In fact, I think Plum did a good job with Miles' incredulity toward Juneau. It's always a bit challenging to believe that an ordinary person suddenly finds themselves surrounded by the paranormal and just goes with it, with only a cursory nod towards disbelief. But all this drawing out does mean that Miles and Juneau can't really make any progress until quite far into the book--almost at the end, really. (But certainly not after it! Ha. Ha. Ha.)
There's another aspect of this I really liked, and that was Juneau's self-doubt. I thought it was handled very well. The poor girl has just realized that everything she knew her entire life is a lie, and she's having difficulty coping. She's not a complete nincompoop--she knows about things like planes and TV and stuff, she's just very leery of it, and some newer things like iPhones are beyond her ken, but she adapts well to that. But her doubt about her life directly impacts her abilities, and watching her struggled to regain her faith--in herself and others--and control her powers once more was an interesting character arc--though again, it means that a lot of the real happening takes place very late in the book.
The book also ends at a really weird spot. I mean, what happens directly following the end is pretty obvious, so I don't see why Plum didn't continue a couple more pages and just finish the sequence off. It's not a solid enough spot to be a satisfying ending and it's not nerve-wracking enough to be a cliffhanger, so it just comes off as a weird spot to finish up.
I definitely want to read the second book, Until the Beginning, but I hope it improves upon the pacing problems that this one had. And that we find out what happened to the dogs!
4 stars out of 5.