Yes, it’s been a while. But I’m kind of back for a review of an upcoming young adult queer apocalyptic novel titled, If Tomorrow Doesn’t Come by Jen St. Jude.
This novel follows our main protagonist, Avery, who is battling with undiagnosed clinical depression. She’s a university athlete on the soccer team and struggling with her grades. Oh, and the world is going to be destroyed in nine days. So, a casual Tuesday, if you will.
Here is the full synopsis of the book which you can also find on goodreads and storygraph:
We Are Okay meets They Both Die at the End in this YA debut about queer first love and mental health at the end of the world-and the importance of saving yourself, no matter what tomorrow may hold.
Avery Byrne has secrets. She’s queer; she’s in love with her best friend, Cass; and she’s suffering from undiagnosed clinical depression. But on the morning Avery plans to jump into the river near her college campus, the world discovers there are only nine days left to an asteroid is headed for Earth, and no one can stop it.
Trying to spare her family and Cass additional pain, Avery does her best to make it through just nine more days. As time runs out and secrets slowly come to light, Avery would do anything to save the ones she loves. But most importantly, she learns to save herself. Speak her truth. Seek the support she needs. Find hope again in the tomorrows she has left.
If Tomorrow Doesn’t Come is a celebration of queer love, a gripping speculative narrative, and an urgent, conversation-starting book about depression, mental health, and shame.
What a good book!
I enjoyed how unique and interesting this book was, as well as the authentic way in which depression was represented and written. Avery is a character that I think a lot of people, especially young queer people, will relate to. It delves slightly into religious trauma and familial homophobia but even though the rest of the novel centres Avery’s depression, this book is not emotionally intense.
In terms of Avery herself, she was a good protagonist. Again, she felt like someone who I could know. She felt real in a way that the other characters of this book didn’t. Her pain I felt like it was my own. Maybe because I understood her. Being queer myself and growing up in the Catholic education system, the type of rhetoric that Avery herself grew up with was similar to what we used to hear growing up in Catholic school. I also really liked Avery’s relationship with her brother, I thought that was wholesome and adorable. I truly think that Jen St. Jude is going to be an author who will continue writing authentic main characters within a context that is unique and fresh within the overall Young Adult genre. Which is definitely needed in a space that feels overrun by the same story and same tropes, copy and pasted. It was a fast paced read, perfect for a weekend and I think a book with a wide audience who will thoroughly enjoy this immersive apocalyptic novel.
However, I’m going to be honest, my enjoyment of this book didn’t get to the point that I thought it would. I thought the story itself needed more time (both in the editing phase and the story itself) as some aspects of the novel needed to be given at least more time to develop. There were also elements of the story such as the random characters and events that occurred (the Professor and the whole Harley situation) was confusing and did not make sense within the overall flow of the narrative. I also had an issue (?) or lacked understanding pertaining to the entire asteroid coming to earth and destroy the planet as we know it. Only because a minor plot point of the novel is the idea that as the asteroid was probably going to hit the West coast, there was a chance that those on the East coast could survive if they planned it well. Notwithstanding the entire, you know, living in the aftermath of the asteroid hitting earth. And I might be getting confused as I don’t know anything about asteroids but because they kept on using nuclear bombs as a comparison, I did not quite understand the effect that this asteroid would have on the rest of the world.
If, for example, the asteroid hit land on the West coast of the United States, why should people in the UK be worried about it? Especially if the asteroid was getting compared to a nuclear bomb – if the ripple of the asteroid didn’t extend the physical bounds of the United States…how was it going to effect the rest of the world? Is it the climate aspect? If it hits water, the tsunamis and flooding I understand – but if it hits land? I needed to literally be told how this was going to effect the rest of the world and why this was an actual apocalyptic event.
Let’s talk about the Professor. I still don’t undertsand why this character was important enough to actually be a character and have page time, but alas, he did. From the onset, Avery tells us that this Professor, at their first class, had an issue with her because she is an athlete. And as a result, this Professor fails to have even an ounce of human compassion and empathy. I am not too sure if this character was meant to highlight the hypocrisy and lack of human emotions university professors have towards students (and therefore being a critique of tertiary education as a whole). However, the moment of ‘confrontation’, he literally says, ‘well, how was i supposed to know you were struggling? You’re an adult, communicate like one’. I found this entire dialogue to be incredibly ridiculous and pointless.
The structure of this novel, taking place over nine days (with some flashbacks) did the book a disservice. The content of this book required more time to sit with the characters, even if the story is heading towards an apocalypse, the development of the story and of the various relationships needed more time for the reader to emotionally invest in the story itself.
In saying that though, I definitely do recommend this book for readers of We Are Okay and They Both Die at the End. I think this audience would thoroughly enjoy the unique and fresh take on the genre that Jen St. Jude has produced.
Publishing: 9th May 2023
Thank you again to The Write Reads and the team over at Penguin for the honour of reading an eARC copy of If Tomorrow Doesn’t Come.
Until next time, happy reading!
All the love,
About the Author
Lambda Literary Fellow Jen St. Jude (she/they) grew up in New Hampshire apple orchards and now lives in Chicago with her wife and dog. She has served as an editor for Chicago Review of Books, Just Femme & Dandy, and Arcturus Magazine. When she’s not reading or writing, you can find her cheering on the Chicago Sky and Red Stars. If Tomorrow Doesn’t Come is her first novel.