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Where the World Ends by Geraldine McCaughrean

Young adult

Where the World Ends

by Geraldine McCaughrean

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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.

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  • Illustrated icon, Slow_Build

    Slow build

  • Illustrated icon, International

    International

  • Illustrated icon, Critically_Acclaimed

    Critically acclaimed

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    Rugged

Synopsis

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.

Free sample

Check out a preview of Where the World Ends.

Where the World Ends

1

Crossing Over

His mother gave him a new pair of socks, a puffin to eat on the voyage and a kiss on the cheek. “God will keep you safe, Quilliam, but he’ll not keep you clean. You must do that for yourself.” Happily, she did not try to hug him close.

He shook hands with his father, who remarked, quite amicably, “The floor needs digging out. You can give me a hand when you get back.” Then Quill walked down to the boat. His parents followed on behind, of course, but the goodbyes were done and out of the way. Besides, he would be back in a week or three. They were only going out to one of the stacs to harvest the summer plenty: bird-meat, eggs, feathers, oil . . .

It was a blade-sharp August day, the sea burned black by the sun’s brightness. And no, there were no omens hinting at trouble ahead. Hirta people notice such things. The clouds did not split open and let fall drops of blood: someone would have remembered that. No sinister bird settled on anyone’s roof. A gull flew over and dropped its mess on Mr. Cane—but that was nothing out of the ordinary. (Who wouldn’t, if they could?) But no signs, no dread omens.

All the men and women of Hirta helped carry the boat down the beach. Three men and nine boys climbed aboard it, and a few people on shore raised their hands: not to wave, exactly, but to check that the wind had not swerved unkindly off course. Quill did not know if the maiden from the mainland was there, among the crowd—didn’t look to see. To be seen looking would have had every other boy on the boat mocking him. So he didn’t look. Well, maybe out of the corner of his eye. Once or twice.

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Why I love it

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.

Member ratings (480)

  • Vanessa C.

    PISGAH FOREST, NC

    Where to begin? Survival, friendship, romance, coming-of-age…I loved that stories gave the stranded the courage and hope to survive their ordeal, and then to survive another one. Absolutely loved it.

  • Lyndsey C.

    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.

  • Brittney E.

    Milford, CT

    I love when historical fiction highlights an unknown or often overlooked part of history. Set in 1720s Scotland, this novel is an excellent story of the human spirit, with vibes of Lord of the Flies.

  • Lanece F.

    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.

  • Hope M.

    Conifer, CO

    I absolutely loved this book. The writing was so different and almost poetic at times. I must admit at first I wasn’t so sure, but it didn’t take more than a few chapters to change my mind.

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Young adult
View all
Ruthless Vows
What the River Knows
As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow
Dragonfruit
The Reappearance of Rachel Price
Gwen & Art Are Not in Love
Check & Mate
Divine Rivals
Legendborn
Foul Lady Fortune
Anna K Away
I Must Betray You
A Wilderness of Stars
Warrior Girl Unearthed
Bloodmarked
Instructions for Dancing
These Violent Delights
The Boy in the Red Dress
Color Me In
Not So Pure and Simple
Throw Like a Girl
Frankly in Love
The Queen of Nothing
Wayward Son
The Stars and the Blackness Between Them
Anna K
Patron Saints of Nothing
The Kingdom of Back
Yes No Maybe So
Looking for Alaska
Permanent Record
Full Disclosure
Oasis
Where the World Ends
I Have No Secrets
Song of the Crimson Flower
When the Stars Lead to You
All the Bright Places
Saving Zoë
Hello Girls
Symptoms of a Heartbreak
All of Us with Wings
The Boy and Girl Who Broke the World
Past Perfect Life
There's Something About Sweetie
Again, But Better
Sky Without Stars
How (Not) to Ask a Boy to Prom
Night Music
Shout
The Deceivers
The Astonishing Color of After
Top Ten
Turtles All the Way Down
Little & Lion
A Million Junes
And We're Off
The Sun Is Also a Star
Salt to the Sea