Review: Instructions for the End of the World by Jamie Kain

Review: Instructions for the End of the World by Jamie Kain Instructions for the End of the World by Jamie Kain
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on December 8th 2015
Pages: 224

From the author of The Good Sister comes a gripping novel about two sisters who learn that there are things in life—love, loss, and self-discovery—that you simply can't prepare for.

He prepared their family for every natural disaster known to man—except for the one that struck.

When Nicole Reed’s father forces her family to move to a remote area of the Sierra Foothills, one without any modern conveniences, it's too much too handle for her mother, who abandons them in the middle of the night. Heading out to track her down, Nicole’s father leaves her in charge of taking care of the house and her younger sister, Izzy. For a while, Nicole is doing just fine running things on her own. But then the food begins to run out, the pipes crack, and forest fires start slowly inching their way closer every day. Wolf, a handsome boy from the neighboring community, offers to help her when she needs it most, but when she starts to develop feelings for him, feelings she knows she will never be allowed to act on once her father returns, she must make a decision. With her family falling apart, will she choose to continue preparing for tomorrow’s disasters, or will she take a chance and really start living for today?

Instructions for the End of the World is a gripping, young adult novel that explores family, friendship, and love in the midst of the most difficult and dangerous circumstances.


So, I don’t think I completely understood what this book would be. This quote in the synopsis seems to imply that this will also be a natural disaster, so I just kind of assumed that there was something “big” happening.

He prepared their family for every natural disaster known to man—except for the one that struck.

You see? It seems like maybe there was a huge flood, and Mom fled or… something. But that isn’t what happened. So many things just made me mad at these parents. It’s the epitome of “Parent-in-YA Syndrome” since Mom took off and Dad went to find her.  There wasn’t any particularly stunning revelation that made Mom leave home, she just was sick of the dad being an ass and also didn’t want to live in some freaking shack in the woods. Speaking of, as I made notes on my Kindle, I called the dad “Daddy Douchecanoe” because that is what he was, and it was fun to find them while writing my review. Some examples? Sure!

Izzy, the younger sister, provides this gem:

“He also forbids us from doing all the things normal girls are supposed to do to better themselves, like getting our ears or anything else pierced, getting highlights, wearing cute clothes, or wearing shoes with any kind of heel.”

Umm. WHAT? I don’t know what it more rage-inducing- the fact that the dad is that controlling, or the fact that Izzy thinks that a bellybutton piercing is “bettering” herself. More on her later.

But really, Wolf, the random dude who lives in a tree, summed it up best while talking about Nicole:

“Her carefully planned and executed life thus far has only included the elements her father deemed appropriate, as far as I can tell.”


The dad really needed a jar.

The mom leaving also didn’t make sense to me. She leaves the girls this “Dear John” letter and peaces out, but what kind of mother would leave her children behind with a man who is clearly unhinged? Especially when the mom has to know that he is so messed up because she is leaving him herself.

Let’s discuss the other characters, the ones that are actually in most of the book.

  • Nicole. She is the older sister in this dysfunction-fest of a family. She listens to everything her dad has ever said, even though she kind of knows he is ridiculous and a huge jerk. She steps up to take care of Izzy when the parents decide that parenting is totally optional. She is the least infuriating character, basically. She discovers Wolf in the tree, and they start talking and junk. Nicole does develop as a character quite a bit throughout the book, which is nice.
  • Izzy. It’s wrong to hate children, right? Whatever, I hate Izzy. She is awful. First, she complains about every actual thing. Now, I understand the complaints about being abandoned by your parents in a shack in the woods with no running water. Please, complain away! But she complains about that, and so much more. And yes, she is supposed to be the younger sibling, but her ignorance is astounding. She uses the word “retarded” on the regular, which infuriated me, and she pops in with some fun little bits like this:

    “I know if I call CPS I will end up having to live in some gross home for teens or a foster home or something, and I’ll probably get sexually abused, because that kind of thing always happens in those kind of places.”

    tumblr_md155rTdVr1qlvwnco1_400Now, good news is, Izzy grows a bit too. Not enough, because how could she even, but she does grow.

  • Wolf. Ah, Wolf. He has been in these woods for a long time, with his drug addict mom in some “spiritual community” or something. But he prefers building treehouses in the woods. For reasons. He hates his mom a lot, on account of the drug addiction and general shittiness at parenting. But he can’t just calm down about it. He pretends he doesn’t care, but then gets all fired up every time someone mentions her. Of course, the romance he has started with Nicole gives him a lot to think about too. Especially drama-filled lines like this:

    “I want to know her in ways I cannot fathom, and it’s an urge so powerful, I feel as if the energy of all humanity past and present is pushing me toward it.”


So yeah. These three all had POVs, as did a much more minor character, Laurel. She was a friend of Wolf’s, but I think she kind of wanted to date his mom? I don’t know. She didn’t even need to be in the book, let alone have a POV. Also, this will probably be fixed in the finished copy, but the names of Nicole and Izzy were switched quite a few times, and it really took me out of the story, because I had to keep checking to make sure I was not losing my mind.

And the ending, well, you know I don’t like to say anything about it that isn’t in spoiler tags so here you go: View Spoiler »

So, the positives? Yes, there were some! I liked that the girls especially underwent quite a bit of character development during the course of the book. I thought that the budding romance was cute, other than the few times I wanted to gag over Wolf’s nonsense. And I was interested enough to see how things would turn out, especially since it is a quick read.

Bottom Line: The negatives did outweigh the positives, sadly. There were just too many things that left me scratching my head, and too many aspects of the story that I found downright unlikable. But the plot was quick and entertaining, so there’s that.


**Quotes taken from uncorrected proof, subject to change.

Picture it: You’re in a shack in the woods, and your parents/family/whoever leave. Do you rough it, or head for civilization? 

Posted November 25, 2015 by Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight in Review / 21 Comments


21 responses to “Review: Instructions for the End of the World by Jamie Kain

  1. Hahaha, I’m sorry but let me just sit here and laugh a while because

    a) Your review be hilarious and
    b) Not supposed to hate children? Pfft. I HATE ALL CHILDREN, but I am a very nice person in general. Its OK to hate children 🙂

    With that out of the way, I’m so incredibly sorry this didn’t work for you, because that cover and premise sure had something going for it. The whole YA-parent-absent syndrome has irked me to no end, though, and this sounds like a typical one at that, so thanks for the warning! Expert review 😛

    • Aww thanks! I do not like most children (other than my own hah) but I don’t usually hate them, but wow, I hated Izzy. I agree with you- I REALLY wanted to like this one. Like, so badly. It was one of my most anticipated books, and I was SO sad. The absent parent thing is awful here, because there isn’t even a logical reason for it!

  2. Omg don’t ask these hard questions…because honestly I think I would rather live away from all the people and be a wood hermit. BUT GEE THEIR DAD SOUNDS SCARY. 0-0 I do get that people hesitate to leave abusive situations because…the evil you know, yeah? Buuuut, um, this sounds really frustrating. >_> And I’m a bit disappointed it’s not about zombies, tbh. I WANTED ZOMBIES. *Sighs and debates whether even wants to touch this with a 9ft pole* I hate it when characters use words like “retarded” I really hate it. I get that it might be “realistic”. But this is literature. Truths get stretched all the time, so why can’t language truths get stretched and they use something that’s not so heavily historically awful?

    • Hahhah I will visit you in your tree house 😉 The thing is, the dad wasn’t even ABUSIVE-abusive, he was just an ass. Which made it even MORE ridiculous. Because if he HAD been abusive, you could at least see why the mom ran, why she stayed for so long, etc. She still would have been a complete asshole for leaving her kids, but at least SOME of it would have made sense.

      And yeah, no zombies! Zombies totally would have made up for some of this other nonsense. The “retarded” thing isn’t necessary AT. ALL. I mean, even if it was realistic, there could have been other ways- she could have said it, and then been told why it is so offensive. Plus, I don’t really even hear people say it often anyway, even young people. So there was literally no reason. She could have said something rude- like, “this is fucking stupid” to show that she thinks she’s so tough and popular, and it would have offended me FAR less.

      We’ll do a fanfiction, where we rewrite everything with zombies. And Izzy is the first to be eaten.

  3. I really wanted to read this. I really don’t anymore. That Izzy quote – you know where piercings are essential to bettering yourself – made me want to stab her in the eye. And it is ok to hate children – mostly when they aren’t your own and fictional. So hate away. Thanks for saving me the trouble on this one!!

    • Sadness 🙁 I am sorry. But I DO of course not want you to have to read anything that makes you stabby 😉 I was SO excited for this one too, which makes it even worse. And the majority of Goodreads seems to agree. When I posted this, it had a 3.35 rating, and today, only a week later, it’s down to 3.22. Yikes.

  4. I’d like to think I’d rough it up, but I’d probably be heading for civilization, lol ! I like the title of the book, but I think I’ll pass – thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Ugh, yes! That is the thing- nothing happens. AT. ALL. I mean, I would say skip it, because frankly, two stars is probably a bit generous here. If it hadn’t been so quick, and had a bit of character progression, it would have been in one star territory for sure.

    • Yes, I was so excited for some post-apocalyptic fun or something, but alas, the world does not end. It’s just the woods.

      And definitely more uses of douche- it was overused for a while, but now it seems almost retro? Let’s go with that 😉

  5. Cee

    I was gonna request this book but decided against it because after reading that synopsis three times, I still had no idea what to expect from it.

    Lollll, children can be the devil, so it’s totally okay to hate them. ;DDD

  6. Oh no! When I read the synopsis, it sounded like something I’d be interested in reading but there are so many things that would annoy me!! The quotes that you chose showed me that I probably wouldn’t like the writing in the book. And on top of that, all the characters sound very unlikable and annoying. I don’t think the romance would redeem it for me… Thanks for the review! I’ll pass on this one.

  7. Oh dear, I thought the title sounded FANTASTIC and was looking forward to seeing its release! But I guess I won’t be picking it up, because the characters get on my nerves just from your review. 🙁 Thanks for the review, although I’ll be passing!

  8. Bec

    I guess yay for character development? It sucks that this book basically delivered nothing like it said it would -_- My interest was lost as soon as you told us that.

    Also is it too much to ask for a nice, functional family in YA for once??

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