Welcome to the Apocalypse. Your forecast includes acid rain, roving gangs and misplaced priorities, in this comedic take on the end of the world as we know it, from debut author Daphne Lamb.
As a self-entitled, self-involved, and ill equipped millennial, Verdell probably wouldn’t have ranked very high on the list of those most likely to survive the end of the world, but here she is anyway. Add in travelling with her work addicted boss, her boyfriend who she has “meh” feelings for, and a handful of others who had no businesses surviving as long as they have, and things aren’t exactly going as planned. But despite threats of cannibalism, infected water supplies, and possibly even mutants, Verdell is willing to put in as little effort as she can get away with to survive.
I received a copy from Patchwork Press – Cooperative via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I’ve always approached the apocalypse genre as a psychological/sociological thing, but I was curious to read a book with a comedic take on the end of the world. From the excerpt, I expected a story where the main character might endure several hardships and obstacles, leading to some sort of self-depreciating yet witty journey of self-growth and learning how to survive through a series of fumbling and ironic outcomes. At the very minimum, I expected the main character to have something important and funny to say about the apocalypse. Or at the very, very minimum, I wanted this book to make me laugh. It is not hard to make me laugh. I am the sort of person that laughs at everything and anything. So, suffice it to say my expectations weren’t very high.
Unfortunately, The Girl’s Guide to the Apocalypse is not funny at all.
When I review books, I do my best to review it with tact. Even if I strongly dislike the book, I swallow it and do my best to be charitable and offer something constructive. But, The Girl’s Guide to the Apocalypse has the one thing capable of causing extensive apoptosis of my brain cells, and instantaneous combustion of my patience and respect for a book: racist jokes.
Yes, unfortunately The Girl’s Guide to the Apocalypse is that sort of book that confuses racism with humour. It is irrelevant if the racist joke is intended to undermine or criticize the stupid racist white millennial who is naive about survival and only cares about how the only food left has too much carbs and is whining about the lack of kale. Humour at the expense of people of colour, not to mention the only person of colour in the book, a Latina woman, is disgusting.
Consider the following quotes: (tw: racism directed at Latinx)
‘Did she go shopping for us?’ Robert asked, looking around. ‘I gave her a list this morning.’
‘You’d probably really enjoy cleaning the bathrooms and bedrooms. Might make you feel a bit normal.’
‘We’re going to assume her name was either Maria or Rosa.’
With regards to the last quote, the other characters are constantly forgetting her name, and are therefore always trying to guess the name. And the names they guess? Stereotypical names. These one-liners are intended to be funny, like punchlines of a joke. But it’s not funny. It’s erasure. It’s not just ‘not funny’, it’s also hurtful, especially so for people with non-Western names (such as yours truly). Because guess what? People who already experience this sort of racism should not have to relive it through cheap, humiliating jokes. Should I have known in advanced that this book contained such humour, I can assure you that I would not have read it.
These jokes are the reason why I don’t tell people my real name because people have reacted in the most horrible ways, e.g. people not bothering to get to know me because my name has been ‘too hard’ to learn (‘What? Oh yeah, nah, I’m not going to remember your name.’ *shrinks away and never talks to me again despite sitting next to each other for the whole semester*), or people saying “And what is that?” after I tell them my name, or people incessantly suggesting to me that I get an English name so it is more ‘convenient’ and ‘easier’ for others. If I am unreasonable, then give me my many years of hating my name back – then maybe we can talk.
So, the book is offensive. Sometimes I can take that in stride. The double-whammy is that this book was mindnumbingly boring. Nothing happens in the plot – no development of any kind, no interesting events, no redeeming moments for the characters, nothing. There is no direction; narrative-wise, it is a mess. It is like a nightmarish lucid dream for four painful hours and you’re trying to escape from it but you feel really bad if you don’t read this book because the writer probably put a lot of time into it so I must be a good reader and finish it and I have a finish-the-books-you-start policy and I should at least give it the benefit of the doubt but I just really really can’t stand it.
I couldn’t care for the characters at all nor for their plights because the characters were ridiculously unlikable. Even if readers were not meant to like them, I found them unbearable and nauseatingly stupid. And they are adults. With their intelligence, they wouldn’t even function in preapocalyptic society. The characters weren’t realistic, and even if that was the intention, it served no purpose. Humour derives from semblances of truth – that’s why self-aware, self-depreciating jokes are hilarious, and cheap jokes only elicit a polite ‘haah’ and awkward coughing. It was just so unbelievable and disconnected from real life that it was extremely difficult to find any value in this book. This is not escapist material; it makes real life feel like peace and quiet.
Also, the quarantine camp community creates a post-stick note Twitter feed. And there are little dialogue gems such as:
“I didn’t violate anything and you know it,” I said.
He took off his helmet. “Hashtag Safety Code Violator,” he said. “I put that on the board.”
I get the inkling that this whole book may be intended to be satire, or some satirical take on the apocalypse. The problem though, is that I am not entirely sure what it was meant to be. I’ll admit, The Girl’s Guide to the Apocalypse had an interesting premise – which was what drew me in – and it had a lot of potential but it was not enjoyable. I should not feel awash with relief after finishing a book, but, alas.
This is not a survival guide to the apocalypse. This is a guide that will sap you of your will to live (or at the very least, the will to read another ARC).
Rating: 1/5 (0/5 if I could)
Book Name: The Girl’s Guide to the Apocalypse
Author: Daphne Lamb
Publisher: Booktrope Editions