Eleanor Dross is getting a little weary of her life. School, as always, is terrible. She has only one friend, and while Mack is the best, she could do without everyone else ignoring her or worse. Her grades? Let’s not talk about it. And home life, it’s fine, but nothing to, well, write home about. Her recently widowed dad is doing his best. And they have Grandpa Joe to help out too. But Joe is a “prepper” – that is to say, he’s most excited getting ready for the end of days. Eleanor used to enjoy the random drills Grandpa would run with her and her younger brothers. But now they’re a bit of a chore, and her bug-out-bag is usually a mess. Now Mack is talking about switching to a specialized school for other blind kids like himself, and Eleanor feels like the world is crumbling around her.
One night when she is searching for some funny “end of the world” memes to send to Grandpa Joe, she discovers news that the world might ACTUALLY be crumbling around her – and soon. She stumbles on a website hosted by a Harvard scientist who reports that an asteroid is on track to hit Earth by early spring, and all of his calculations have led to a bleak outlook. Eleanor is initially just curious, but as she spends more time on the website (and with some encouragement from Grandpa Joe), she becomes intent on making sure her friends and family are prepared for the upcoming apocalypse. Mack is on board, of course Grandpa Joe is too – her dad is another story, but he’s always been frustrated by Joe’s survivalist zeal so that’s not surprising. Eleanor and Mack start an after-school club that they coyly call Nature Club, but it’s all about prepping. Their small group grows in size, and even brings in Eleanor’s nemesis, basketball star Londyn Diggs. As the days count down, Eleanor has to decide for herself how many people she wants to save – and how to convince her skeptical father that their days are numbered.
I find this to be the perfect middle school book! The plotline of an upcoming doomsday weaves perfectly in with the feeling you have when you’re nearing high school and everything is changing. The characters in the book are all delightful, from Mack’s predilection for funny accents and keeping positive, to Londyn’s athlete-meets-rock-star vibes, to Grandpa Joe’s eagerness to connect with his grandkids on an apocalyptic level, to Eleanor, who is just trying to survive in more ways than one. I love the conflict between Eleanor’s dad and grandfather – it seems like a very realistic struggle that could happen with a single dad and his own interfering father. It would be a great book for a school curriculum, with its plot points around asteroids, reliable information sources, and survivalism – but it wouldn’t be a drag for kids to read. It’s light enough for younger middle schoolers, but juicy enough for older ones. I highly recommend it for tween readers or anyone who enjoys a potential-end-of-the-world drama.