The Girl’s Guide To The Apocalypse is another NetGalley read which I picked up mostly because the cover was pretty. (Let’s face it, when it comes to choosing books online that’s 90% of my reasoning.) It joins a list of apocalypse-based reads that I really feel I should start categorising. Funniest apocalypse. Most realistic apocalypse. Most gruesome.
This book would probably win most realistic, because it’s about completely ordinary people. The protagonist and narrator is an office worker whose immediate reaction when things go to pot is to hide under a desk and hope it works itself out. The world is ending around her, and she doesn’t suddenly become a hero. She remains herself, a somewhat selfish but ultimately good-hearted office worker with no idea how to survive in a post-apocalyptic world.
The people around her vary hugely. Some become savage cannibals. Others start a cult of Risk Management, or play video games and try to restore the Internet to life. People start rumours via a ‘manual’ Twitter – pieces of paper pinned up on a board.
In other words, it pretty much sums up how a lot of us would react to the apocalypse. We wouldn’t become heroes who try to rescue everyone, nor would we pull out hitherto unknown skills in an attempt to make the world a better place. We’d just follow people around who seemed to know what they were doing and try to survive long enough for things to get better without our help.
Despite this, Verdell is still more heroic than those around her, in that she actually gives a damn about what’s going on. While they’re obsessing about whether their food is low-calorie, she’s grateful for every sink she comes across.
(There’s one character, Debra, and I wanted to punch her in the face. She’s one of those people who won’t eat gluten for faddy reasons, rather than because she has coeliac disease, and that MAKES ME SO MAD. Do you know how much I miss having proper bread? Do you know what it’s like to be limited to ONE AISLE in the supermarket when I used to have the whole lot? Ugh. /end coeliac rant.)
My biggest problem with the book was probably the writing style, as it seemed quite simplistic and not brilliantly polished. Verdell was surprisingly unemotional given the horrors she’s facing, and while it makes sense that she wouldn’t have the words to describe watching people get killed and eaten, I still felt like she wasn’t exactly reacting to things in a realistic manner, so it loses points there. The narrative also regularly skipped chunks of time, leaving me to wonder what I’d missed.
And finally, the fact that the characters were so realistic was actually the problem. Fictional characters are usually larger than life because real people aren’t that interesting. While it was nice to see a character who reacted the way I would, the people around her were so frustratingly mundane and self-centred and awful that I couldn’t care less what happened to any of them.
Plus, they fixated on tiny details while ignoring far huger ones, and nobody seemed to care at all about anything that was happening outside of their immediate situation? I said it was realistic that they weren’t heroes, but while I doubt I’d try to save my entire town, I would at least wonder about my family, and not just think about myself.
It may have been the aim of the book to point out how people from developed countries are terrible at dealing with disasters that rob of them of creature comforts, but all it made me want to do was punch a whole lot of fictional people in the face.
So ultimately, the book gets three stars. It was interesting enough, but it wasn’t outstanding — it felt unpolished, and I didn’t care enough about it to rate it any higher.
The Girl’s Guide To The Apocalypse is due to be released on September 1st, 2015, and the above review refers to a review copy I got from NetGalley. And so on and so forth; you know the drill.