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All booksYoung adultWhere the World Ends
Where the World Ends by Geraldine McCaughrean
Young adult

Where the World Ends

by Geraldine McCaughrean

Quick take

Abandoned on a Scottish island in the 1700s? It's brutal. But it's also based on a true story, if you can believe it.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_SlowRead

    Slow build

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  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Acclaim

    Critically acclaimed

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Why I love it

Diane Magras
Author, The Mad Wolf's Daughter

I read historical fiction for the windows it opens to the past. But I’m tough on this genre. I want historical accuracy, fast-paced plots with tension and imagination, and characters who feel real. Where the World Ends is the rare historical novel that hits every mark.

It’s 1727, and a group of nine boys and three men are dropped off on a sea stac—an uninhabited column of stone—some miles near the island of Hirta in northern Scotland. They’re harvesting sea birds for two weeks, an important annual tradition. Two weeks pass, and the bags are full of birds, but there’s no sign of the boat. Then three weeks pass, then four. Then months. The novel shifts from a coming-of-age tale of friendship and bullies to a dire survival story in which each boy and man must decide who he is and what makes life worth living.

I love the setting with its bone-chilling cold, the many smells of the ocean, and the constant sense of dread. I love the characters’ dreams and courage. And I love the warmth that permeates this bleak true story, which Geraldine McCaughrean makes vivid, even funny at times, and ultimately satisfying.

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Every summer Quill and his friends are put ashore on a remote sea stac to hunt birds. But this summer, no one arrives to take them home. Surely nothing but the end of the world can explain why they’ve been abandoned?cold, starving and clinging to life, in the grip of a murderous ocean. How will they survive such a forsaken place of stone and sea?

This is an extraordinary story of fortitude, endurance, tragedy and survival, set against an unforgettable backdrop of savage beauty.

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Check out a preview of Where the World Ends.

Member thoughts

All (247)
All (247)
Love (71)
Like (108)
Dislike (68)
264 ratings
  • 27% Love
  • 41% Like
  • 26% Dislike
  • Palm Bay, FL

    Hands down my second favorite book (HP series is first!). I was hooked immediately. I finished the whole thing in four hours and then re-read it immediately because I felt like I couldn't get enough.

  • Orlando, FL

    Geraldine, known for her children's books, doesn't pull any punches. This book really puts you in the dreaded headspace of the young men fighting for survival, praying they haven't been forgotten.

  • Dayton, OH

    Such a moving and hopeful story. I loved that it was based on a true story and reading the actual details of the incident was interesting and moving. I really loved the characters as well.

  • Clovis, CA

    Great mix of adventure & sorrow. I loved all the characters & the balance religion played in the stories. It was excellent. So much sadness but also so much bravery and the power of will.

  • Pullman , WA

    This was a fascinating story and surprisingly based on a true story. An enjoyable read that depicts the limits and strength of men and boys forced to survive anyway they can.

  • Liverpool, NY

    An absolute cracker of a story. Inspired by the amazing true history. Immersive, dark, and beautiful, it’s a story, ultimately, of what matters in life.


    This is a great YA historical fiction imagining the happenings of an obscure events in the farthest parts of Europe, at the edge of the known world.

  • Charlottesville, VA

    This book was brutal, but very well done. I was not aware of the actual history, so when I reached the afterword, it made this book hit even harder.

  • Vallejo, CA

    This is sold as a young adult’s book but I’m almost 60! I was enthralled by the magically written description of Hirta. Lovely book.

  • Washington, DC

    WOW what a story. I'm glad I visited Scotland this summer and could visualize a lot of these rocks rising out of the sea. So so so good.

  • West Hollywood, CA

    A beautiful and intriguing story. It’s like a blend of Lord of the Flies and Animal Farm and it reads like a YA Game of Thrones!

  • Rome, GA

    The ending of this one caught me by surprise. The pages flew by and despite the heavy topic of survival it was easy to read.

  • Soddy Daisy , TN

    this book absolutely changed the way i look at every situation. a must read - even if you dont enjoy historicals

  • Chattanooga, TN

    This is an odd bird of a book (pun intended). What makes it odder is that it is based on a real event.

  • Vermillion, SD

    Oh, my heart. I laughed and cried, then cried again. Beautifully written, tragic story

  • Moran, KS

    Love that it is based on a true story. Still think about this book everyday,

  • Columbus, IN

    A very realistic survival kind of adventure and was absolutely amazing

  • Fort Hood, TX

    This was beautifully written, thought provoking and atmospheric.

  • Layton, UT

    Compelling story of survival. Full of atmospheric details!

  • Pensacola, FL

    Wow. Loved this one.

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