'Where the World Ends' is a gripping tale of survival and friendship [Book Review]

'Where the World Ends' is a gripping tale of survival and friendship [Book Review]

Where the World Ends
By Geraldine McCaughrean
Published by Usborne
ISBN 978 1 4749 4343 7

St Kilda is a small group of bleak, rocky islands in the Atlantic Ocean, 160km miles off the north coast of Scotland. These inhospitable islands, known as “the islands at the edge of the world”, are the remotest part of the British Isles.

The largest St Kilda island is called Hirta, and a community lived there for hundreds of years until 1930, when the remaining inhabitants requested the Scottish Government relocate them. 

Life on Hirta was gruelling and difficult for the small community. The land was too rocky to grow crops, and the seas too rough to allow fishing. So the isolated residents hunted seabirds to keep them alive. 

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In the seas around the island are gigantic columns of rock called stacs. These are perfect breeding grounds for thousands of seabirds. 

Every year, a group of hunters from Hirta would sail to the gigantic Warrior Stac and live there for two or three weeks hunting seabirds for meat, oil, and feathers. This was the only way the islanders could keep their community alive.

Geraldine McCaughrean’s new book, Where The World Ends, is set in the 1720s and tells the dramatic story of one summer’s bird hunt to the Warrior Stac when things go wrong. McCaughrean always comes up with a unique idea for her next book, and this edge-of-your-seat adventure is one of her best.

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A group of three men and nine boys are shipped to and left on Warrior Stac to gather enough food for the community to survive the winter. They all understand the job they have to do, but each is anxious about the dangers they will have to face.

Once they have settled down, the work goes well and the harvest of seabirds is plentiful. But when the time comes for the boat to pick them up and take them home, it doesn’t arrive.

Where The World Ends now becomes a thrilling and desperate tale of survival. At first, the group carries on with its work, but panic and fear soon sets in. Why has no one come to take them back? Has there been a disaster on Hirta? Surely nothing but the end of the world  can explain why they’ve been abandoned?

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We follow the dramatic events on the stac through the eyes of Quill, one of the older boys. As time passes, the interplay and personality clashes within the group produce bizarre and frightening behaviour. 

Readers of William Golding’s classic Lord of the Flies may see plot parallels as the tension and fear on the rocky outpost reach breaking point, but McCaughrean has her own dramatic tale of survival to tell. 

Where The World Ends is a tense and unique YA novel with some adult themes and a nail-biting plot. 

John Millen can be contacted at millenbookshelf@gma­il.com

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
A thrilling Lord of the Flies-esque tale of survival on a lonely rock


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