In this debut YA thriller, the leftovers of an unexplained apocalypse struggle to survive and find meaning in the wreckage.
After a drunken camping trip with his friends, teenage Zephyr Rockwell awakes to find that everyone he knows—indeed, the entire population of his hometown—has vanished into thin air aside from piles of clothes littering Firefly Valley. He soon excludes mundane reasons for the disappearances, such as a mass exodus or a horrible misunderstanding, but the implications of the seemingly supernatural event are still hard for him to grasp. The lights are still on and food is still easy to find, but Zeph’s plans to scavenge local businesses are soon interrupted when he encounters another survivor, Ross Williams, while breaking into a gun shop. They join forces to explore the town’s new landscape, which is scarred by the ruins of cars and trucks that were speeding down Firefly Valley’s streets at the time of their drivers’ disappearances. Zeph’s initial enthusiasm for a new ally soon begins to dwindle when he notices clues that Ross’ benevolent, cheery manners hide a darker, less stable interior. Soon, the pair’s temporary alliance is broken and Zephyr flees Firefly Valley with another survivor he’s found, a young girl named Jordan. They make other scattered friends along the way as they try to make a new home in a newly abandoned America. The great vanishing, while an ever present mystery, isn’t really Zephyr’s main concern as the story goes on, which can make it difficult for readers to see where it’s all leading. However, this also means that Casamassina’s novel avoids getting bogged down by a standard, predictable plot arc. It’s also nice to see such a cynical protagonist in a YA novel rather than one that’s overwhelmed with shock after a calamity; Zephyr often gives sharp warnings that are regularly ignored by adult travelers, often with disastrous consequences. The resulting tone allows the book to delve into darker territory than many other YA tales.
Solid apocalyptic fiction that focuses more on its character relationships than its sci-fi elements.