You & Me At The End Of The World – Brianna Bourne

You and Me at the end of the world by Brianna Bourne

He was a punk, she did ballet. what more can I say.

You & Me at the end of the World is a surrealist contemporary YA that encourages the reader to strip back the layers we wear around our hearts to see who really is inside, and whether that actually matches the outer tropes we embrace.

Brianna Bourne blends modern young adulthood with the interventionist internal pondering of It’s a Wonderful Life and Life on Mars/Ashes to Ashes through immersion in a familiar yet alien environment forcing introspection and challenging of the ways we exist and persist allowing her characters emotional growth & the space to confront the stuffed away problems of their everyday lives.

Content Warning: RTC, ICU. strong language (Leo’s chapters)

Hannah seems lost in her purpose as a ballet dancer, The Plan™️ which includes only dating the right ballet dancers, a gruelling workout & rehearsal schedule and constant pain as the pointe shoes rip and bruise her feet. She barely has time to be a teenager let alone give attention to this rumbling in her tummy, an unsettling detachment, a dread that she can only pay attention to when the routine stops.

Leo is undoubtably one of the most attractive boys at school but has wholeheartedly embraced the slacker, 80s hair metal guitar playing, stoner Casanova rogue role thrust upon him not only by his interests but by the expectations of others. He avoids effort and attachment to anything whether it be pursuing greater musical skills let alone a career, deeper connections or actually being passionate about anything in his life… but is detachment and ‘devil may care’ actually fulfilling? And is it going to be cute now he’s aging out of school. 

When they separately wake up in a mysteriously abandoned Houston, Hannah has  been maintaining her schedule allowing 15 minutes dwelling for her theories ranging from aliens to impending weather disaster to (whisper it) dead; Leo on the other hand has been raising as much hell as possible to distract himself from the fact he is utterly alone. 

Five days into this isolation they stumble upon each other and decide that their differences are not enough reason to be alone and decide to team up to work out what on earth is going on. 

Leo Sterling would be a distraction at best, destruction at worst

Hannah

A well known saying in my family that has stayed with me is when someone ‘can’t see the woods for the trees.’ It’s an adage more often pulled out when someone is deep inside a problem and can’t or won’t find their way out that seems obvious to others, or particularly cannot see the blessings or strengths in their life because the mundane or problematic are omnipresent. But it also can be used to explain when someone is unknowingly trapped in a routine or a ‘role’ that is sapping them.

In You & Me At The End Of The World that is the feeling you get with Leo’s hiding from the world with a bad boy persona, and Hannah with The Plan™️ despite the many layers of self she has hidden that even the shortest time with Leo reveals. 

One thing that resonated strongly with me was the surprise from Leo that Hannah’s musical knowledge extended not only beyond the ballet cannon, but into his own interests (thanks to her dad). My husband is still surprised by the breadth and depth of my musical knowledge even 20 years into knowing me but remarkably so when we were Leo & Hannah’s age when he thought he was the only person who knew 70s and 80s rock, and I introduced him to Whitesnake and many more.

If she can identify my favourite songs by their opening chords, maybe there’s more to her than meets the eye?

Leo

As Hannah and Leo reveal more to us about their true selves in their alternating narration coupled with the surreal events in this abandoned Houston, we realise that something is not right, not simply with the world around them, but the worlds within them, something has got to give and this may be their once chance for a Damascene moment. 

We are at a crossroads with the characters centred around the upcoming Saturday, Hannah’s audition for the ballet corps which will make or break her career, and Leo meeting again with the rockstar he connected with at the last years festival who wants to give him a start in the industry but Leo doesn’t want to commit to effort and potential failure.   The question is; will this apocalyptic experience commit them to their decisions or open new worlds of thinking. 

‘Hey don’t get attached to me okay?’ I mean it to sound jokey but it comes out harsher than I wanted it to.

Leo

There is also an interesting under theme about mothers and how regardless of how old we are, we long for maternal connection and approval. From the ballet hopes of Hannah connected to the abrupt career ending of her former professional mum and Leo’s wild child mother who seems detached from everything and encouraging her children to be the same. Both Hannah and Leo are hungry for their mothers’ approval, at their own expense. However, they equally underestimate their mother’s potentials for growth and change too which has festered emotions in both Hannah and Leo. 

It’s like, mine and my mom’s thing.

Hannah

Overall this is not your average YA contemporary romance. It’s deep and raw and hopeful and surreal all at the same time. This is something far more existential and thought provoking and I’m excited to see more of Brianna’s writing.

And a final note, if you were ever Team Jess (especially if being Team Jess meant you wanted him to have happiness and success regardless of Rory) you will love this book.

You & Me At The End Of The World – Brianna Bourne is published by Scholastic

Thank you to Scholastic for my copy!! 💜

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