January 29, 2035.
That’s the day the comet is scheduled to hit—the big one. Denise and her mother and sister, Iris, have been assigned to a temporary shelter near their hometown of Amsterdam to wait out the blast, but Iris is nowhere to be found, and at the rate Denise’s drug-addicted mother is going, they’ll never reach the shelter in time.
Then a last-minute encounter leads them to something better than a temporary shelter: a generation ship that’s scheduled to leave Earth behind and colonize new worlds after the comet hits. But each passenger must have a practical skill to contribute. Denise is autistic and fears that she’ll never be allowed to stay. Can she obtain a spot before the ship takes flight? What about her mother and sister?
When the future of the human race is at stake, whose lives matter most?
It is with mixed feelings that I share with you my DNF review of On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis – a book that I was really looking forward to reading ever since I had heard about it but unfortunately did not gel with my tastes in pacing.
Set in 2035, On the Edge of Gone follows biracial and autistic teen Denise on the day the comet is scheduled to hit the earth. Separated from her sister, stuck with her drug-addicted mother, and, by chance, is given respite in a ship intended to colonise other planets, full of passengers with skills that give them a place on the ship. Denise, who is autistic, fears that she will never secure a place – and thus may face the harsh landscape of a post-apocalyptic earth.
Caveat: I expected something different, and that’s on me
When I discovered On the Edge of Gone, the premise was something I felt drawn to; I love ‘looking for lost family’ narratives, and so I read On the Edge of Gone with, in hindsight, expectations that were incongruent to what the story was actually about. I had expected an adventure novel of sorts; one where Denise would have to navigate an Earth that is near-dying, and one where Denise would have to navigate the challenges of survival whilst she searches her sister.
However, On the Edge of Gone is not an adventure novel (as far as I could tell, from what I have read), which is indeed incongruent to my expectations. Rather, this is a thoughtful, slow-paced, and character-driven story that follows Denise and how she navigates the new environments following the comet, the obstacles she faces of finding a place on the ship, the hardships she overcomes, and the fraught relationship she has with her mother. I decided to DNF this book at 45% (roughly at page 205), and I felt like the story had barely gained any momentum. Unfortunately, the pacing at this point had disengaged me from the story completely, and I decided to shelf it – for good.
A reason to give it a pass: the pacing
Reading what others have said about the pacing of On the Edge of Gone, it seems mixed and I certainly see the argument for both. For me, the pacing was a little bit too slow (though this could be because of my initial expectations of the book) and unfortunately the slow and shaky pacing made it difficult to understand, and be invested in, the direction of the story. Essentially, the narrative lacked the cohesion, or an overarching thing that bound the whole story together. Although this book does have some cohesion (and I am certain that it would have improved with subsequent chapters), combined with the slow pacing, I just could not get invested. I did try my best to give it another go, to continue reading, but after awhile, other books felt more compelling. So, alas, I DNFed it.
A reason to read it: great autistic rep; great atmosphere
Other readers, however, might enjoy this book for its slow (in a good way!), thoughtful, and deliberate pace. A significant portion of this book and its narrative is devoted to creating a vivid atmosphere, one that is haunting, eerie, and potentially desolate should Denise not succeed. Indeed, reading this book, it made me wonder about what Earth would look like in the absence of humanity, and how the remnants we would leave behind – infrastructure, buildings, technology – would be eerie as heck without us there. Denise’s autism is also integral to her narrative, and Duyvis honestly explores and carefully examines Denise’s internal experiences and feelings – her aversion to touch, how she perceives the world around her, and how she experiences social interactions.
Is the pacing in On the Edge of Gone just too slow, or is the pacing a blessing for exploring the complexities of a post-apocalypse through the eyes of an autistic teen? In my opinion, it’s certainly both and depends on which you prefer or appreciate more. Regardless, a distinct highlight and feature of this book is that it examines how themes of ‘survival’ intersect with discourses that are inherently ableist and classist, particularly in the context of post-apocalyptic narratives. The crux of the story challenges ideas of who is more deserving to live and survive, and, on that front, Denise is a powerful and compelling narrator.
MY CONCLUSION: TENTATIVELY RECOMMENDED
Perhaps it is a little weird that I’m recommending a book that I did not finish. If you aren’t in the mood or generally do not like books with a slow pace, then this book may not be for you. However, I believe that On the Edge of Gone has the potential to be someone else’s favourite book – it has a great lead that may be relatable to autistic readers, and there’s some great discourse on survival and challenges its ableist roots.
Is this book for you?
Premise in a sentence: An autistic teen fights to stay as a passenger of a spaceship following the earth’s apocalypse but must grapple with her drug-addicted mother and search for her missing sister.
Perfect for: readers who want to read ownvoices autistic rep; readers who like slower SFF.
Think twice if: if you don’t like slow pacing or overly-detailed descriptions.
Genre: young adult, science-fiction, post-apocalypse
Trigger/content warning: drug use; drug addiction
I was so looking forward to On The Edge of Gone and hoped that I would like it, but unfortunately it wasn’t for me. But, in saying that, maybe it is the sort of book that you might love!
Also, I published this book review on January 30th (just a day shy of 29th!), which is when the apocalypse takes place in the book! Which… now that I think about it, is a bit grim and morbid. 🤔 *taps all the wood because I’m superstitious*
- Have you read On the Edge of Gone? What did you think of it? (I’d especially love to hear from people who did like it!)
- What do you think about survival themes and books? Do you think they are inherently ableist? Why or why not?
- Have you read any other books with #ownvoices autistic representation? I’d love some recommendations!