YA Review: The Cats We Meet Along the Way

Title: The Cats We Meet Along the Way
Author: Nadia Mikail

YA Review: The Cats We Meet Along the Way

What a lovely, gentle, moving book!

The world is ending. An asteroid will wipe out everyone and everything in a few months, but people are still living their lives. What else is there to do? In Malaysia, Aisha was planning a life – studying medicine in Edinburgh, getting married and settling down with her boyfriend Walter, having children and naming them for her late father and uncle. But her world is smaller now, and she has to accept that these things will never happen.

But there are unresolved pieces to her family’s story, and Aisha wants to understand what made her mother abandon their home when Aisha’s father died, and what happened to her older sister, June. Aisha’s mother hasn’t dealt with the grief of losing her husband, choosing instead to run away and start again without him. June left home three years ago, and no one has heard from her since.

In the days they have left, Aisha, her mother, Walter and his parents, and a stray cat named Fleabag head out on a road trip to come to terms with the past, and look for June.

Aisha and Walter are a lovely couple, and it is heartbreaking to realise – along with Aisha – that there will never be an ending to their story. They won’t get to live the life they imagined, and whatever hopes they had will end with the asteroid.

But this isn’t a depressing story. Instead of focusing on the tragedy, the author connects with the tiny details of her characters’ lives, showing us the grief that shaped Aisha and her family, as well as the simple pleasures of living one day at a time. Despite the apocalyptic setting, this manages to be a story about connection, breaking down barriers, and understanding what really matters. With all the grief, unspoken anger, and coming to terms with the end of the world, this ends up being a story about hope – the kind of book that you close at the end and with a happy sigh.

The Cats We Meet Along the Way won the 2023 Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, and it deserves the recognition.

Have you read The Cats We Meet Along the Way? What did you think of the story? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

YA review: The Cats We Meet Along the Way cross-posted to GoodReads.

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YA Review: The Forevers

Title: The Forevers
Author: Chris Whitaker

This is a UK-set high school novel with a difference – the world is probably ending, and the characters are living their lives against the clock. It’s a powerful idea, following a group of teenagers as they navigate an uncertain future in a world that is slowly falling apart.

The asteroid has been headed to earth for ten years, and so far every attempt to divert it has failed. The final mission might succeed, and life might go on – but what if it doesn’t? Will the teenagers of West have the chance to live before the end?

Mae, a girl with a reputation as a troublemaker, searches for the truth about her friend’s death. Did Abi Manton kill herself, or did someone in town have a motive for murder? As normal life begins to unravel, Mae uncovers her classmates’ secrets, finding friends, allies and enemies in unexpected places.

With this setup, readers might expect a complete collapse of law and order, or a sense of apocalyptic panic, but that’s not story the author sets out to tell. As the end of the world approaches, the characters definitely become more brave and less law-abiding, but they still go to work and school, practice for concerts and make plans for the final school dance. This could have been a book about what people do when their actions don’t have consequences, but if the final mission succeeds they will all still have to get up in the morning and navigate the rest of their lives. The threat of success is a clever twist, adding balance to the story and allowing normal life to continue as the clock counts down.

I didn’t get on with the book at first. The author introduces a large cast of characters, and jumps straight into their relationships, rumours, crushes, and cliques. To begin with I had trouble remembering who was who, who was rumoured to be sleeping with whom, and who liked or hated the protagonist. While Mae’s sister and her best friend are well drawn and rounded, the other characters were harder to tell apart, and I found myself struggling to care about their stories.

The plot develops slowly, with fragments of evidence about Abi’s life and death surfacing among all the other secrets and lies. Every character is hiding something, and it feels as if Mae is constantly sidetracked by the scandals she uncovers in her classmates’ lives. There is an answer, and all the pieces fall into place in the end, but not before we’ve heard about every other scandal in town.

Mae is an interesting protagonist. She doesn’t think twice about breaking and entering, particularly in the expensive part of town. She has no problem stealing from the rich kids to support her younger sister and the grandmother who is struggling to look after them, and she’s always top of the suspect list if anything happens at school. She’s learned not to care what other people think of her, and her only soft spot is for her sister. As the book progresses, she finds herself caring about the people around her. As she finds out more about their lives, she begins to understand that life isn’t plain sailing for anyone – even the families in the biggest houses in West.

The asteroid that might tear the world apart ends up bringing the teenagers of West closer together. If you’re looking for a slow-burn murder mystery with a large cast of friends and enemies, or a high-school gossip story with a twist, this is the book for you.

Have you read The Forevers? What did you think of the story? Would you be a Forever in the same circumstances? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.

Please keep your comments YA appropriate. Be patient! We want to hear from you, but comments are moderated, and may take some time to appear.