Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers on June 9, 2020
Genres: Young Adult Fiction
Source: Street Team
The Handmaid's Tale meets Wilder Girls in this unique, voice-driven novel from Kelly McWilliams.
Agnes loves her home of Red Creek--its quiet, sunny mornings, its dusty roads, and its God. There, she cares tirelessly for her younger siblings and follows the town's strict laws. What she doesn't know is that Red Creek is a cult, controlled by a madman who calls himself a prophet.
Then Agnes meets Danny, an Outsider boy, and begins to question what is and isn't a sin. Her younger brother, Ezekiel, will die without the insulin she barters for once a month, even though medicine is considered outlawed. Is she a sinner for saving him? Is her sister, Beth, a sinner for dreaming of the world beyond Red Creek?
As the Prophet grows more dangerous, Agnes realizes she must escape with Ezekiel and leave everyone else, including Beth, behind. But it isn't safe Outside, either: A viral pandemic is burning through the population at a terrifying rate. As Agnes ventures forth, a mysterious connection grows between her and the Virus. But in a world where faith, miracles, and cruelty have long been indistinguishable, will Agnes be able to choose between saving her family and saving the world?
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My Rating: 5 stars
Agnes at the End of the World paints a vivid picture of a grim landscape featuring a fundamentalist cult and a pandemic that is devastating the Outside world while still delivering a message of hope.
Kelly McWilliams is staking her place in young adult literature with this debut novel! I cannot even begin to fathom what it’s like for authors, especially debut authors, to release a book during the current world situation, let alone a book about a pandemic during an actual pandemic — Kelly has the unique experience of doing both with Agnes!
The writing is simply beautiful and the story is so thought-provoking. The world-building and character development are both phenomenal! This YA genre mash-up (dystopian with cult and pandemic themes) was hard to put down and even harder to stop thinking about!
Agnes at the End of the World is told in the dual POVs of Agnes and Beth — sisters raised in Red Creek who couldn’t be more different from one another — which allows for a lot of depth, especially once more settings and secondary characters are introduced. AND OH WHAT A MARVELOUS CAST OF CHARACTERS WE GET! The leads are inspiring, the prophet (and cult, as a whole) is perfectly villainous, and I was rooting for so many of the side characters as they battle through each conflict they face.
There is a lot of faith-based dialogue given one of the main settings is Red Creek — a cult town — and one of the main characters is prophetic. Although religion is often a hot topic in real life, it is handled with a lot of care in Agnes. Regardless of your beliefs (or non-beliefs), I don’t feel that that should be a deterrent.
Overall, I highly recommend Agnes at the End of the World! You need to add this one to your list if you enjoy YA Dystopians or stories where characters find themselves in impossible situations with nothing but hope and determination to help them through.
*Thanks to the author and publisher for providing me with an advanced copy of this book as a member of the street team. Please note that it, in no way, had an effect on my opinion or review.
*Note: This aesthetic is of my own creation using stock photos and inspiration and/or quotes from Agnes at the End of the World.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kelly is a mixed-race writer who has always gravitated towards stories about crossing boundaries and forging new identities. For this and so many other reasons, young adult literature will always be close to her heart. She is a graduate of the Walnut Hill School for the Arts and Brown University. Her upcoming novel, AGNES AT THE END OF THE WORLD, benefitted from a We Need Diverse Books Mentorship.
Kelly has crafted stories all her life, and her very first novel, DOORMAT (2004), was published when she was just fifteen-years old. DOORMAT became a Junior Library Guild selection and led to a feature in Seventeen magazine. Kelly has previously worked as a staff writer for Romper, covering issues important to women and families. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, cooking (with mixed results), or hiking. She lives in Colorado with her partner and young daughter.
Source: Author Website