All the Ways the World Can End by Abby Sher is a cringe-inducing, tearjerking novel for all the right reasons. Thanks to NetGalley for giving me this ebook in exchange for an honest review.
For years, Lenny (Eleanor) has been researching how to cope with the end of the world. She’s taught herself about diseases, black holes and anything else that could threaten our extinction. But while she focuses on the abstract, it really does feel like the world is ending. Her father has terminal cancer and her best friend is hoping to leave for a school miles away. A lot is changing – fast. It’s not all bad though. Dr. Ganesh, the young doctor working on her fathers case, is attractive, friendly and fun. She’s sure he feels a connection too (he doesn’t – it’s cringe). There’s an absolute ton going on for Lenny as she finds everything is beginning and ending, all at same time.
This is one of the less gripping mental health-related novels I’ve read in the past year. All the Ways the World Can End revolves around how family dynamics evolve during a crisis, for better and for worse.
Lenny’s mother is a work-a-holic. It’s disastrous. When she’s there she’s completely present, but when she’s gone she’s uncontactable. Her absence leaves Lenny floundering when her father potentially needs to be rushed to hospital and she’s the only one at home. It’s terrifying.
Meanwhile Lenny’s sister Emma is partying with her college friends. Her life sounds fun and carefree while Lenny’s home, stressed out of her mind.
Between her mother and her sister, Lenny has a lot of pent-up anger for the two of them. But in true teenage fashion, instead of talking out-loud about it, she just gets snappy until it dissolves.
Then we’ve got Lenny’s father who used to support her through her anxiety – but now he’s dying and he isn’t exactly emotionally available when he’s breathing through an oxygen mask. He was the one to help her stop self-harming, but now she wonders what was the point in giving it up?
That’s a recurring thought throughout the book actually – Lenny will stop self-harming for other people, but not for herself. When she’s alone, she loses it. Combine this with her OCD-like coping mechanisms and you’ll be begging for someone to get this girl a therapist.
In the midst of everything, Lenny’s only support comes from her best friend Julian (who may be moving soon to a performance arts school) and Dr. Ganesh, who’s working on her fathers case. A cringe-inducing series of events follows as Lenny repeatedly mistakes Dr. Ganesh’s support for ‘something more.’ It’s purely platonic and we can see that, but she’s sure this thirty-six year old man is made for her. Lenny clings to any understanding and friendliness he shows her, which isn’t surprising when she’s got such little support from her family. Honestly, you will feel so embarrassed it will hurt as you read how wrong she gets it.
All the Ways the World Could End reminded me of my love for platonic friendships between people of the opposite sex (it’s reason #234 for why I love Grey’s Anatomy). For once, we have a story where the main character doesn’t fall in love with her best friend. He’s gay (yas for inclusivity and diversity), so it’s not like it would ever happen anyway, but it’s still such a luxury in YA fiction to find an opposite-gendered friendship like theirs.
I should probably state the obvious before I finish – anybody with a heart will cry at this book, potentially multiple times. Realistically it’s no surprise. When there’s a story about a family affected by cancer, tears kind-of come with the territory.
If you liked Nina is Not Okay, you should like All the Ways the World Can End.