Anyone else love end of the world books and movies? Scholastic released You & Me at the End of the World by Brianna Bourne. Read on for a You & Me At The End of the World review, a book about love and surviving in an empty Houston.
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ABOUT YOU & ME AT THE END OF THE WORLD
This is no ordinary apocalypse…
Hannah Ashton wakes up to silence. The entire city around her is empty, except for one other person: Leo Sterling. Leo might be the hottest boy ever (and not just because he’s the only one left), but he’s also too charming, too selfish, and too devastating for his own good, let alone Hannah’s.
Stuck with only each other, they explore a world with no parents, no friends, and no school and realize that they can be themselves instead of playing the parts everyone expects of them. Hannah doesn’t have to be just an overachieving, music-box-perfect ballerina, and Leo can be more than a slacker, 80s-glam-metal-obsessed guitarist. Leo is a burst of honesty and fun that draws Hannah out, and Hannah’s got Leo thinking about someone other than himself for the first time.
Together, they search for answers amid crushing isolation. But while their empty world may appear harmless . . . it’s not. Because nothing is quite as it seems, and if Hannah and Leo don’t figure out what’s going on, they might just be torn apart forever.
At the start of You & Me At the End of the World, high school student and ballet dancer Hannah finds herself in a bookstore in Houston. It’s been five days since she woke up to find herself completely alone in the city. Confused and still trying to process what happened, Hannah finds comfort in the bookstore that was owned by a friend of the family.
While in the bookstore she hears music coming from the shop next door and peeks in to see a classmate, Leo Sterling, playing guitar. Hannah is scared and then intrigued to see another person.
Hannah and Leo bond while trying to navigate their attraction to each other in a stressful situation. They explore empty Houston by cruising around in Leo’s car, but it’s not all fun and games because right away they notice strange things happening. Shadows lurk in corners, the weather is unusually violent and a heavy feeling of instability covers both of the teenagers.
I’m already a huge fan of any post-apocalyptic stories and I really enjoyed the twist at the end of the novel. However, the twist isn’t what makes this book so special. The slow buildup of the romance between the two teens is not only realistic but handled really delicately.
Falling in love in the middle of what looks like a world-changing event may not be on the minds of most but I think author Brianna Bourne lets the story unfold naturally.
Bourne also weaves teenage anxiety in the story with Hannah obsessively dancing every time a scary event happens. As the tension in the book builds, Hannah finds herself questioning everything about her own life and interests as it relates to what people expect her to do compared to what she actually wants to do. You & Me At the End of the World is an entertaining novel that shows just how young love and a brief encounter can transform a life.
Note: This is a young adult novel and there are mentions of marijuana use and Hannah shows signs of OCD with her dancing.
INTERVIEW WITH BRIANNA BOURNE
Hi Brianna, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me. First, congratulations on your book being published! Can you tell me the inspiration behind the novel?
Thank you so much, and thank you for reading! I love your blog!
The very first spark came from my own high school experience, actually. I could sense that there were times I could tell I’d missed out on becoming friends with a seriously magnetic, interesting person, simply because I was quiet—if I was in a group of people, it was always easier to let other people talk. I was interesting too (I hoped!); I just needed to be given an opportunity to talk to them one on one. There were also times when I wanted to approach someone who, on the surface, seemed very different to me, but invisible social barriers kept us apart.
I think the book eventually grew from those feelings: I wanted to see what would happen when two people who would have never had the guts to talk to each other were stranded together, just the two of them, in a high-stakes situation that forces them to get to know each other quickly and intensely.
You & Me at the End of the World takes its time to build two specific things: the romance between Hannah and Leo and the danger of their situation. Was it hard to get that pacing exactly right?
Oh, wow, yes—it was a monumental task trying to get the pacing and balance right. There was definitely a moment after I’d finished the first draft where I panicked a little—I couldn’t decide which facet of the book, romance or suspense, should take center stage; which thread to pull out and which to tuck into the background. (The answer was that they had to take turns, but carefully.)
As I alternated between nudging the romance plot along and nudging the where-did-everybody-go plot along, I had to be careful about sounding like I was hitting the same two notes. Each time it had to unfold a little more, get a little more tense. It’s always two steps forward, one step back, in terms of what’s going on inside Hannah and Leo, this journey from who they are at the beginning of the book to who they are at the end. Just like real life, I think!
Houston, Texas is almost the third character in the book. It looms over both Hannah and Leo and you capture just how eerie it is to be stuck in an empty metropolis. Any particular reason you chose Houston?
It’s so satisfying to hear that the eeriness really came through for you as you read—I loved exploring the surreal vibe of the empty city in my head and making sure it transferred to the page!
The quick answer is probably that I set the book in Houston simply because that’s where I went to high school, but it ended up working so well. Houston is such a vibrant, diverse, and noisy city, and it’s also geographically huge, so seeing it empty and quiet is more of a gut-punch than if I’d set the book in a small, rural town. And Hannah and Leo are city kids, so they’re doubly thrown off kilter by the emptiness.
Very early on in the process, I had this mental image stuck in my head of a girl walking down the middle of I-10, which at it’s widest point is 26 lanes across. I never mentioned it to my cover designer, though, so when I saw the striking image of Hannah and Leo on an empty road on the cover, it took my breath away.
Do you have any upcoming projects that you can share?
I’m working on the second book of my deal with Scholastic now! It’s not a sequel, because You & Me at the End of the World is standalone novel—but this new project is also Contemporary YA with a speculative twist and a strong romantic element. It should feel very much like a sister book, and I’m having so much fun getting to know my two new characters.
I have so many stories cooking in my head, and I can’t wait to share them with readers. Thank you so much for chatting with me!
About the Author
Brianna Bourne is author of You & Me at the End of the World. When she’s not writing, she works as a stage manager for ballet companies around the world. Originally from Texas, Brianna grew up in Indonesia and Egypt and now lives in England with her rock musician husband and their two daughters. You can find out more about her on Twitter at @briannabourneYA.