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What If It’s Us meets Life as We Knew It in this postapocalyptic, queer YA adventure romance from debut author Erik J. Brown. Perfect for fans of Adam Silvera and Alex London.
When Andrew stumbles upon Jamie’s house, he’s injured, starved, and has nothing left to lose. A deadly pathogen has killed off most of the world’s population, including everyone both boys have ever loved. And if this new world has taught them anything, it’s to be scared of what other desperate people will do . . . so why does it seem so easy for them to trust each other?
After danger breaches their shelter, they flee south in search of civilization. But something isn’t adding up about Andrew’s story, and it could cost them everything. And Jamie has a secret, too. He’s starting to feel something more than friendship for Andrew, adding another layer of fear and confusion to an already tumultuous journey.
The road ahead of them is long, and to survive, they’ll have to shed their secrets, face the consequences of their actions, and find the courage to fight for the future they desire, together. Only one thing feels certain: all that’s left in their world is the undeniable pull they have toward each other.
Ok, so let me start off this review by being clear that my choice to DNF this book had nothing to do with the quality of the writing or the storytelling from Erik J. Brown. I absolutely love the set up of this story with two young men who are essentially all alone finding one another in this post-apocalyptic world. The book is intense from the start as we open with Andrew, severely injured and barely hanging on, finding Jamie’s house like an oasis in the wilderness. The two boys are wary, both knowing how dangerous life is right now and afraid to trust anyone. And even as they were easing into the start of a friendship, I could feel the tension of what was to come. So I found the writing to be very good and the story itself was engaging and drew me in. I was eager to see how Jamie and Andrew’s adventure would unfold and, again, I have nothing critical to say about the writing or the story in the portion that I read.
Where I struggled here is that I found myself very triggered by the premise of a deadly virus that kills most of the world. I love post-apocalyptic stories and have read books featuring deadly diseases before. And I have read end-of-the-world, post-apocalyptic stories since the start of the Covid pandemic. So I really didn’t expect to have such an intense reaction here to this story, but I found it actively upsetting and inducing panic in a way that meant I just couldn’t keep reading. To be clear, this story is not about Covid. While the book takes place in an undisclosed future (at least not disclosed in the 15% or so that I read), it is clear that Covid has already happened and that this is a new and different pathogen. But there are similarities, including how fast it spread, how people originally thought it was just flu-like, how the U.S. responded, etc that definitely evoked a sense of our current situation, albeit in a much more severe way. I’ll also note that I happened to be recovering from Covid when I picked up this book. It was random coincidence; I received this for review months ago and put it on my schedule for release day, so I didn’t even remember details of what it was about before I picked it up as next on my list to read. But I will say that when I was sick in bed coughing, reading about people in the book having coughs that then led to their grisly deaths, I realized it was just too much for me. Even thinking about the story was making me anxious and brought out all my larger Covid anxiety of the past two years and, unfortunately, I found it just too triggering to keep reading.
I am really sorry about that, because as I said, everything I read made me feel that this has the potential to be a very good book. So if this story seems like one that intrigues you, I definitely encourage you to check it out. I am engaged enough with the story myself to hope that I reach a point where I can try it again, but unfortunately, that isn’t right now. But I did want to at least get this book out there and share my thoughts, as well as let more folks hear about it in case this might be a story for them. And I will definitely be keeping my eye open for more books by this debut author in the future.
P.S. As a note, our official blog policy is that we do not DNF a book until at least reading 25 percent. I feel as reviewers we need to give every book a fair chance before deciding not to continue. However, in this case I broke my own rule because the story was just triggering my panic and so I stopped at around 15 percent into the book.