Back in February, when I presented at Life, the Universe, and Everything, I had a very clear winner for Favorite Book I Read: After the End, by Amy Plum. It is the first book in a two-book series, and yes: I loved it even if it did break my read-no-unfinished series rule. (It helped that the sequel was only a few months out.) To sum up After the End:
It tells the story of Juneau, who grew up in a clan of people who survived a nuclear war that left most of North America inhabitable. The clan lives in Alaska, with a few leftovers from the days before the war, but mostly survive by hunting, fishing, and farming. They also have their ability to connect to the Yara, which is sort of a mother-earth, all-living-things-are-connected power. Juneau's mom used to be the spiritual leader of the tribe, but then she died, and now Juneau is being trained to take her place.
Until she finds out it's all a lie: there was no nuclear war and society is doing just fine. She has to head out into the world to find out answers, both about herself and her clan.
One thing I loved about this is how different it was. I can sort-of compare it to a couple of books—it reminded me a little bit of Epitaph Road by David Patneaude and of Half Lives by Sara Grant—but the connections are tenuous at best. It felt like an original idea, not derivative of anything. Plus, I loved that it is full of outdoor adventures all the way from Alaska to L.A., with a stop in the downtown Salt Lake City library. Also, Juneau is a strong female character without ever being unstoppably or inexplicably strong; she has a history behind her strength.
So I expected quite a bit from the sequel, Until the Beginning, and it didn't fail to deliver. It picks up right where the first book left off and then barrels forward, with outdoor adventures and Juneau slowly figuring things out and a tense (and a little bit open) ending.
I am being vague on plot details because really, anything I said about the second book would ruin the first one. It's a great little series that I would highly recommend if you like adventure, a little bit of romance, girls who make actual choices that influence their lives in both negative and positive ways, and something a little bit unusual.