“Did I just kill my dad?”
Lenny, the protagonist of Abby Sher’s Young Adult novel All the Ways the World Can End, is struggling.
Her Dad is dying of cancer – and everyone in her family has her own way of coping. Lenny’s mum works long hours as a supreme court justice. Big sister Emma has escaped to college. And Dad is busy just trying not to die. Lenny is left as Dad’s main carer and her coping strategies are more concerning: excessive hand washing, preparing a secret bunker in the shed, and researching ‘All the Ways the World Can End.’
Of course, it is Lenny’s own private world that is imploding and she feels powerless to stop it.
Lenny is not completely alone. Her best friend Julian is a quirky, upbeat rock in her precarious life and her dad’s gorgeous, young doctor seems to be very interested in her. She is also rehearsing for her school’s Performing Art Showcase, where more than one surprise is waiting.
But even these anchors in her life become unstable, and Lenny is swept away to a dark place of grief and despair, resulting in self-harm and very erratic behaviour. Will her friends and family find out how bad things have got in time?
All the Ways the World Can End contains trigger warnings for self-harm and some pretty graphic images of cancer and its treatment, but underneath this is a story about coping when life changes and how friends can often be vital in supporting each other – sometimes without even knowing it.
I love a book with something unusual and this one has special pages before every chapter with Lenny’s notes on a different possible world apocalypse. These pages, written in white ink on black pages, were so interesting that I ended up reading them all before the story itself!
So, All the Ways the World Can End is a great read with a fabulous, complex and interesting protagonist and a great ensemble of original characters that impact on Lenny’s life. Be aware of Abby Sher’s hard hitting and honest writing about cancer and self-harm, but enjoy Lenny’s journey and take heart from her perseverance and tenacity as she realises that you can’t always stop the world from changing, but you can learn to live in the new world it becomes.