Where the World Ends

Where the World Ends

Where the World Ends
Geraldine McCaughrean

Usborne Publishing Ltd

ISBN 9781474943437

Winner of the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2018. Every summer Quill and his friends are put ashore on a remote sea stac to hunt birds. But this summer, no one arrives to take them home. Surely nothing but the end of the world can explain why they've been abandoned - cold, starving and clinging to life, in the grip of a murderous ocean. How will they survive?

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Reviews

Where the World Ends5/5

Where the World Ends

Geraldine McCaughrean

Review

This powerful, poignant and psychologically tense novel is so atmospheric and sensory you can feel the salt spray pounding your face, hear the waves thundering against the perilous rocks and flinch at the raucous shrieks of birds above the stark sea stacs. McCaughrean, Carnegie Medal winner and author of over 160 books, believes that 'fiction is elastic: it stretches to encircle true facts and then crimps them into shape to create Story.' She has certainly achieved this goal in creating this cinematically-charged and meticulously researched historical tale. Her effective use of descriptive language and beautifully realized sense of location breathes life into the 1727 account of a fowling party sent from the wilds of Hirta (off the remote islands of St. Kilda in Scotland) to the isolated Warrior Stac to hunt birds, only to be inexplicably abandoned.

As the party of 12 struggles to understand why the mail boat has not returned, they must rely on their wits, courage and skills to survive. From the plaintive chapter headings (which mark the time in scratches spent by the stranded men and boys as they languish on the treacherous rock faces) to the painfully evocative imagery, McCaughrean perfectly imagines their predicament creating believable, well rounded characters with wishes, dreams, hopes, schemes and secrets.

The group's harrowing experience is recounted through the third person voice of Quilliam McKinnon, the steadfast glue that holds the disparate band together - a storyteller, a giver of roles and a protective and supportive influence. Three adults, with strengths and weaknesses, accompany the unfortunate boys who see the trip as a rite of passage, a chance to prove their manhood and to ensure their livelihood by harvesting bird meat, oil and feathers. As the suspense mounts, fears, doubts and religious superstitions abound, magnified by the increasing mental and physical deprivation of the marooned party. Wild weather whips around the forsaken fowlers, personifying their ever-changing moods.

Where the World Ends is a must read though it is not for the faint hearted. Vegetarians may particularly struggle with the graphic details of the fowlers' trade involving the slaughter of birds, the use of Storm Petrels as candles and puffins consumed as a wholesome snack. Those misgivings aside, it is a book worthy of five stars for its absorbing plot and devastating impact on the reader. It is a worthy Carnegie 2018 nominee.

336 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Tanja Jennings, school librarian.

Reviewed by: Tanja Jennings