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On Spoilers and C. A. Fletcher's A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World

The task of a reviewer (or librarian or bookseller) is to celebrate a work of excellence, to entice a reader to give a title a chance, all without revealing key elements of the plot. This task is especially difficult for those of us who prefer to encounter a new title with very little advance information. Add to that difficulty the complexity of the young reader, and the burden is tremendous. When reviewing books for young readers, my aim is to help parents, librarians, and teachers (and the readers themselves!) know if the book is a good match - for an individual or for their collection. That job is never more difficult than with an amazing book like A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World by C. A. Fletcher.

This book was selected for the 2020 ALA Alex Awards, ten titles written for adults that have "crossover" appeal for young readers. Books like this are often crucial for a certain category of reader, the avid reader who wants more complexity but might not be ready (emotionally or mentally) for the content of adult novels. And this book comes with the following "note on spoilers" from the author:

"It'd be a kindness to other readers -- not to say this author -- if the discoveries made as you follow Griz's journey into the ruins of our world remained a bit of a secret between us . . ."

Even without the warning, the urge to push this book on another reader with nothing more than a "just trust me" would be strong. It is a powerful, convicting look at the world dozens of years after a relatively mysterious END, and besides being an excellent story, it asks such probing questions as

"With so many marvels around you, did you stop seeing some of them?"

Griz is a teenager, growing up in a world after the world as we know it has ended. Like every great dystopian or post-apocalyptic novel, A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World is not really about the future; it is about the present. It is about us, and how we choose to respond to it is the point.

Near the end of the book, one of the characters says,

"no one knows the end of their own story, not except the very end, where they die. Not even you, Griz. Now we have to go."

And it is so true. There is no certainty other than the fact that we will each of us die, and that fact can be a comfort or a trouble, depending on your perspective.

This book leaves the reader with much to ponder. Questions of power and secrets, questions of stories and who gets to finish them, who is the monster and who the main character, and just how much we take for granted. Do read it, please.


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