After the Lights Go Out (Lili Wilkinson, A&U)
Emergency drills, bug-out bags, a secret underground bunker with a year’s supply of food—life’s a little different when your dad’s a doomsday prepper. Seventeen-year-old Pru Palmer and her two younger sisters are used to his paranoia about the end times, although they long for a more normal existence. Living on the outskirts of Jubilee, a remote mining town in the Kimberley, can be isolating even when you’re not home-schooled and permanently offline. But what if their dad’s right? When the power mysteriously fails in Jubilee one day, it’s clearly no ordinary blackout. Pru’s dad has trained her for this moment, and she knows that family comes first—which means she can’t tell any of Jubilee’s increasingly desperate locals about the bunker and all its supplies. But after discovering what’s caused the lights to go out and realising the severity of the situation, guilt weakens Pru’s resolve, and her plan threatens to backfire. Lili Wilkinson’s tense, gripping thriller for older teens uses a fascinating premise to explore how far you might go to protect your loved ones. While some of the actions taken by key characters don’t feel entirely convincing, the novel’s doomsday scenario feels terrifyingly plausible. Pru is an engaging, believable protagonist, and her thoughtful observations and occasional wisecracks are a perfect counterpoint to the suspense-driven narrative.
Carody Culver is a Brisbane-based freelance writer and editor