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Reviewed by Kim Anisi for Readers' Favorite
Riley McCullough's summer in The Summer the World Ended by Matthew S. Cox does not start out very promisingly. She and her best friend had planned to spend the summer together, but then her friend's parents take her on a two-week holiday in Puerto Vallarta. This problem pales in comparison to what happens next: Riley's mother dies and she has to go and live with a father she hasn't seen since she was a little kid. A father whom she thought had nothing but hate in his heart when it came to her and her mother. As a minor, she does not have much of a say in where she has to stay though, so she ends up in a little place in the middle of nowhere. Her father seems to survive on tins of Spaghetti-O - even for breakfast! The only ray of light is a local boy, who likes video games just like Riley. When nuclear bombs hit, none of that matters any longer. Fortunately, Riley's dad is prepared and the two hole up in a bunker. After almost two weeks, her father goes out to check what the situation is, but he does not return. Riley then has to make a decision: stay in the safe bunker and hope someone will reply to her radio messages? Or go out and look for her father in a world that might be full of looters and potential rapists?
I didn't see the big plot twist of The Summer the World Ended by Matthew S. Cox coming (and I won't give it away!). I actually called out "You are joking!" when I understood what was happening. I felt truly sorry for Riley. Riley is a very well written character with some typical teenage girl issues. These weren't needed for the plot, but helped to turn Riley into a believable, well rounded character. She is quite witty and some of her comments are quite entertaining. I also liked that she's a bit unusual, i.e. a gamer girl and not your usual teenage girl who cares more about clothes, boys and gossip. I found her actions and reactions believable. Her father was an odd one though - who could eat only tinned food? But I guess many men who live on their own don't know how to cook real food! I found it interesting how the book makes you (and Riley) believe one thing about people and events while the truth turns out to be something quite different. It shows how easily people can be manipulated, e.g. into believing a certain person isn't trustworthy even though he or she seems to be. It was also very nice to read a book that clearly must have been proof-read and edited. It was a great read, surprising, exciting and sometimes also hilarious!