Instructions for the End of the World

Instructions for the End of the World

by Jamie Kain

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He prepared their family for every natural disaster known to man-except for the one that struck.

When Nicole Reed's father forces her family to move to a remote area of the Sierra Foothills, one without any modern conveniences, it's too much too handle for her mother, who abandons them in the middle of the night. Heading out to track her down, Nicole's father leaves her in charge of taking care of the house and her younger sister, Izzy. For a while, Nicole is doing just fine running things on her own. But then the food begins to run out, the pipes crack, and forest fires start slowly inching their way closer every day. Wolf, a handsome boy from the neighboring community, offers to help her when she needs it most, but when she starts to develop feelings for him, feelings she knows she will never be allowed to act on once her father returns, she must make a decision. With her family falling apart, will she choose to continue preparing for tomorrow's disasters, or will she take a chance and really start living for today?

Jamie Kain's Instructions for the End of the World is a gripping, young adult novel that explores family, friendship, and love in the midst of the most difficult and dangerous circumstances.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250047854
Publisher: St. Martin''s Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/08/2015
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 224
File size: 733 KB
Age Range: 13 - 17 Years

About the Author

JAMIE KAIN grew up in Kentucky but has had a nomadic adulthood. She is now settled in Sacramento, California with her husband and three children. Wherever she goes, her devoted writing and jogging partner, a pit bull mix named Reno, can nearly always be found at her side. She is also the author of The Good Sister.
JAMIE KAIN grew up in Louisville, Kentucky but has had a nomadic adulthood. After many moves, she is now happily and permanently settled in Northern California with her husband and two children. Wherever she goes, her devoted writing and jogging partner, a pit bull mix named Reno, can nearly always be found at her side. She is the author of The Good Sister and Instructions for the End of the World.

Read an Excerpt

Instructions for the End of the World

By Jamie Kain

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2015 Jamie Kain
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-250-04786-1



July 6, 2002

From the edge of the forest, you can catch the world unaware. You can watch like a silent animal, and you can observe what people don't want you to see.

If you were the one sitting in the crook of the madrone tree, you would hear the car and the truck on the gravel road before you saw them emerge into the clearing and stop in front of a forlorn house.

A man gets out of the white truck and walks to the driver's side of the car, where a woman sits inside without opening the door. He tries the door handle, but it must be locked. Then he says something. It looks as if they are having a standoff.

Their vehicles are new, shiny, clean, waxed, like cars in commercials — a silver sedan and the large white truck, which is towing a matching white camper trailer. These are nothing like the dusty cars in which I have grown up riding.

Adjusting myself in the crook of the tree to keep my left leg from falling asleep, I press my shoulder into the chill of the wood. The madrone is called the refrigerator tree because even on the hottest days it feels cold to the touch. No one really knows why. I am grateful for it on this day when the heat bears down like a malevolent force.

I sit still and silent, practicing this skill. It's what I imagine the Native Americans did in these woods hundreds of years ago, before white people came.

After awhile I am rewarded with the sight of a hare, its dust-brown fur stretched over a long, lean body, as it eases out of a burrow. A few seconds later the ears of several baby hares poke up, their velvet black eyes peering out at the world, looking for their mother. I know from watching that they won't venture out, not until she invites them to do so in whatever silent language of movement they use. She will nudge them back into the burrow again and again, until they are large enough to search out food and fast enough to evade predators.

And even then, only a few of them will survive, if they're lucky.

I understand the balance nature seeks — the need for the hawk to eat the hare — but I have never felt at peace with its harshness. I don't begin to understand why life, so excruciatingly fragile, so breathtaking in its delicate beauty, can be destroyed with such ease. Mahesh would say that no life is truly destroyed, that it just returns to the Great Mother Earth to live again, but tell that to the hare trying to keep her babies alive.

Then again, she probably understands it far better than I do.

Finally the woman, small and dark-haired, gets out of the car and stands next to it, arms crossed over her chest, posture stiff as a redwood. Then she picks her way across the overgrown yard and up onto the porch, followed by the man.

If you were the one watching now, you would know the rush of pleasure to see the girl who climbs out of the passenger seat of the pickup truck and follows after her parents. Although I am too far away for fine details, I get the general impression of her: long dark hair in a braid down her back, narrow limbs, jeans, a white tank top. A species unto herself, she moves without seeming the least bit disturbed by her unkempt surroundings.

Last to exit, from the car, is another girl. She looks like her sister, but smaller and I assume younger. The colors she wears are jarring in this dusty place — bright pink and turquoise. She calls out something to the others, then does a ridiculous skitter across the yard, like a Jesus lizard on water.

I watch, and I gather facts: a new family in the valley, neighbors where, for almost as long as I can remember, there have been none, save the angry old man who used to live in the house only a handful of times each year, using it as a place to stay while he hunted deer. Already I feel encroached upon, hemmed in. I am one whose territory has just been shrunk by development.

It's a feeling that's been gnawing at me even before this new arrival. It started with my mother coming back a month ago.

You might wonder why I watch, and that, you would be wise to question. It's the big why.

Of the facts I might choose to tell about myself, I can think of none worth knowing. I sit here in the woods because it is a halfway point between the place others choose to call my home and the place I choose to call my home. I am often hovering in between, unclear about my destination.

The first home has gotten too crowded for me, with the return of my mother, Annika Dietrich.

She of the little white pills, the empty wine bottles, the bottomless need.

When she left last year, it was a relief, like having a painful tooth removed, followed by the shock of realizing that there is a hole where the tooth once lived. And then, as with all things, you change. You adapt. A year passes, or more than a year. You stop missing the tooth, you learn to chew on the other side of your mouth, and when you remember it, you recall only the pain it caused and your relief at its removal.

But my mother is not a molar, or even a canine tooth. She is an addict. A recovering one, she says, but I'm seventeen years old. What am I going to do with a full-blown mother now? What do I do with her new twelve-step religion, her higher power, or her pseudo Jesus talk that fits in at the village about as well as a snake in a henhouse?

I have no use for it, so I disappear into the trees, which are the only caretakers I've known who never disappoint.

Okay, I don't completely disappear.

I am building a shelter. A secret tree house, tiny in size but big on promise.

I will soon be living like my hero, Thoreau, with his cabin in the woods. Only higher.

And maybe when it's finished I will build a bridge to the moon.

I will learn what the crystalline perfection of solitude has to teach me.

* * *

The family has gone inside the house, leaving behind a silence that fills the clearing. Even the cicadas are quiet for a stretch of time. I'm about to climb down from the tree to look for a place less encroached upon when I hear the front screen door squeak open and slap shut again. I look up to see the man and the older girl there, the one not intimidated by weeds. He says something and hands the girl a rifle.

A gun?

It is long, black, ominous in the sunlight.

In a fluid motion, she rests the weight of the rifle against her shoulder as if she's handled it a thousand times, and I watch, dumbstruck, as she heads toward the woods — and toward me.


Everything is a test.

If I flinch, I fail.

If I say no, I fail.

If I hesitate, I fail.

I have learned how to survive being my father's daughter, even if that's not what he thinks he's been preparing me for.

So I march across the field toward the woods, Daddy's good little soldier girl.

All you need to know about Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) James Reed you can learn by reading his self-published book, The End of the World As We Know It, a manual on surviving the apocalypse, or the next ice age, or the mega-earthquake, or whatever catastrophe finally befalls mankind.

For his money, he's betting on social and government collapse caused by widespread shortages of food and water brought on by natural disaster. It's as good a theory as any, I guess.

What I always wonder, but never ask aloud, is: if there's a God, what makes us think he even wants us to survive?

I know what my dad's answer would be. He'd say we are God's chosen, created in his image and given the knowledge and talent to survive any catastrophes we face.

But what if my dad's book falls into the hands of someone who isn't chosen? This is what I would then ask, if I were a different person, in a different life, far, far from here. My idea of God is different from his.

My dad's book doesn't contain any chapters about himself personally. It is strictly a guide to how to skin game animals, purify water, find and build shelters, start a fire in any weather under any circumstances, set a broken bone with any materials on hand, and other such matters. Yet you can infer through the topics and his handling of them what kind of man would write a book like his.

You can make an educated guess.

And you'd be right.

James Reed is the kind of guy who brings his family to a new home none of us has ever seen before, aside from an old family photo, which he has decided we will live in, without seeking our opinions. So here we are, in the middle of nowhere. We all — myself, my mom, my sister Izzy — are varying levels of stunned and appalled.

Me: approximately 40 percent stunned, 15 percent appalled, 45 percent I- don't-know-what. Intrigued, maybe?

Mom: 60 percent stunned, 40 percent appalled.

Izzy: 30 percent stunned, 60 percent appalled, 10 percent worried about her hair.

The place Dad has brought us is not like anywhere we have lived before, and we've lived in a lot of places, thanks to my dad's army career. It's the home my great-great-grandparents built over a hundred and fifty years ago with money they made selling groceries to miners during the Gold Rush. It's a crumbling two-story Victorian, oddly out of place in this rugged landscape, hunched quietly here in a clearing like an old lady waiting to die, with the forest standing vigil around her. I guess the color of the house used to be white, though most of the paint has peeled off to reveal the grayish siding beneath.

There are woods on all sides, in a landscape of rolling hills that get higher to the west, as foothills turn into steep mountains. And even though this is a family home, I've never been here before because my dad wasn't close to my grandparents, or his grandparents, and no one has lived here full time since I don't know when. He's the only child, so he inherited the house last year when my grandfather died.

I tried to picture the place before we got here, but it's so remote that I could barely find the area on a map.

And Dad isn't exactly interested in the same details the rest of the world is. He told us only that it had a cellar for canned goods and a big detached garage added in the sixties, where Dad would keep all his interminable supplies that he stocks away like a crazed squirrel preparing for the world's longest winter. He said it was twenty acres in the Sierra foothills, mostly wooded but with a good clear area for a two-acre garden and some livestock, with its own underground well, a year-round stream, and a septic system.

So there is what I pictured, with my sad lack of useful information, and there is reality.

Our home for the foreseeable future is the most broken-down house I have ever seen outside of a horror movie. I can only hope the plumbing works, which occurs to me because Dad is big on lecturing us about living without plumbing — how we take running water and flushing toilets for granted, how we'd all be better off using an outhouse because it would toughen us up.

Mom will not, even for a night, use an outhouse.

She was born in Cambodia in the seventies, her earliest memories of starvation and hiding in the jungle. Once, in a rare moment of willingness to talk about herself, she told me how she saw her older brother shot in the back as they were escaping the massacre of her village by the Khmer Rouge. When she was six years old her parents were able to immigrate with her and her remaining siblings to the US, to Southern California, where they went on to have what must have felt like a shockingly normal suburban life when contrasted with what came before.

So it kind of makes sense to me that she will not consider accepting anything but middle-class living conditions. Even with Dad's plans to renovate this house to its former glory, it doesn't come anywhere near meeting her standards.

I think of our pristine ranch house in the desert, and I don't miss it, but I know my mother does. Our neighborhood always seemed to me like a place without a soul, like where zombies would choose to live if they had jobs and bank accounts. Yet I think Mom sees the suburbs as the kind of place murderous dictators never take over and slaughter millions of people. She kept our house spotlessly clean and free of clutter. And she is a fan of all things new and improved — two categories this house does not fall into.

Our arrival at our new home was preceded by ten hours of driving through the desert and the Central Valley. We left at oh four hundred hours, which means early morning, before daylight, in case you don't know military time speak. Mom drove her Honda with Izzy in the passenger seat, and I rode with Dad in his truck, which was towing the camper trailer full of the last of our household stuff. A moving company will be delivering the rest of it.

We got a five-minute tour of the house, during which I was relieved to see it does have an old, funky bathroom, along with a bedroom for each of us. There is even a decrepit sort of charm about the place, if you consider haunted houses charming. Then we were given our jobs — Izzy and Dad unloading the trailer, me finding dinner, Mom standing in the kitchen looking appalled.

She is so angry I'm not even sure she knows the words to express her rage. This is not a good sign, but Dad is a pro at ignoring female emotions. He's been doing it for years.

Finding dinner, to most people, might mean opening up the refrigerator or picking up a take-out menu. Not in my family. In the Reed household, we find dinner the old-fashioned way whenever possible. Or at least my dad and I do.

My mother and little sister have not signed on for this particular survivalist lifestyle. They have not learned to assimilate.

For my mother, survival mode isn't a lifestyle choice. It's what her family came to America to escape. And they did escape. From age six onward she grew up in Long Beach and learned to love all things American and middle class. She has no romantic notions about roughing it — which these days for her means skipping a weekly pedicure.

So I am the girl with the hunting rifle, forever traipsing into the woods hoping to take down something more impressive (and better tasting) than a squirrel. But this is not the right time of day for hunting, in the glaring heat of the late afternoon. This is when animals lie low, waiting for the heat to pass. After the sun dips below the ridgeline, there will surely be deer, rabbit, and other game, though early in the morning is best, when animals are first venturing out to find food for the day.

But Dad likes to make things hard for me. He wants to know I will survive no matter what happens. Without the son he always hoped for, he's forced to pass on his knowledge to me, since Izzy mostly refuses to participate in anything remotely outdoorsy.

I, on the other hand, am happiest surrounded by trees and sky.

Picking my way along a trail mostly overgrown with brush, I feel the cool metal weight of the barrel and stock in my hands. There are two emotions I waver between. One is reluctance to fire a gun, killing some poor animal that's just trying to live its life. In my head, I don't comply with every order just to please my dad.

In real life, though, I am my father's daughter, and the other feeling is pride. I am really good at hunting. I can shoot a duck out of the air with one quick shot, then clean the carcass and fry it up for dinner over an open fire, if I have to. As much as I sometimes get tired of my dad's constant prepping, I do like knowing I can take care of myself. I've never liked confronting the death of an animal, but I understand that it's how we get food to eat.

"Let's go find dinner," he will say at the start of every hunting trip, and I go.

There is always that moment when I contemplate my options, consider saying no. Maybe declare myself vegetarian, just to see his reaction. But I never do. I am only a rebel in my mind.

The heat sears my skin and sends rivulets of sweat trickling down my back and my rib cage. My tank top sticks to me and I wish I had something cooler than jeans and boots on, though I know stinging nettle is all around and they are protecting me from the pain of that horrible weed, at least.

In the woods, my senses sharpen. Here on the edge of field and woods is my best chance to find game. I choose a tree trunk to lean against and grow still and quiet, slow my breathing, and wait. Gnats fly at my face, but I don't swat them away.

Soon enough, I get lucky and hear a rustling near a fallen tree. Easing closer, I see a lean brown hare, and I lift the rifle.

I have the hare in my sight when I hear a voice yell, "Stop!"

Startled, I nearly fire the gun, but my father's training kicks in. I force my fingers to ease off the trigger, lower the gun halfway as the hare disappears into the brush, and turn toward the sound of the voice.


Excerpted from Instructions for the End of the World by Jamie Kain. Copyright © 2015 Jamie Kain. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Title Page,
Copyright Notice,
Part I: The End of the World as We Know It,
Part II: You're on Your Own,
Part III: Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape,
About the Author,
Also by Jamie Kain,

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Instructions for the End of the World 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Laura_at_125Pages More than 1 year ago
Original review at Instructions for the End of the World was both very good and very bad at the same time. The world built was great, the pacing was not. About half of the characters were very well fleshed out and the other half seemed like they were thrown in at the last minute. Some of the plot points were very strong and some were so unrealistic it was almost painful. The story centers around teen Nicole, a very strong character who I connected with, her sister an “every rebel teen stereotype” and Wolf “the troubled boy next door”. The parents were outright neglectful and just all around horrible and only served to drag the story down, particularly the subplot with Wolf’s mother. However, some scenes brought me to tears with their poignancy and I was rooting for Nicole to triumph the entire read. It almost felt as if two different novellas were stuck together and the author was tasked with melding them together as quickly as she could. Instructions for the End of the World has potential, but sadly did not fulfill it. I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
lrhubble More than 1 year ago
A Very Good Book Sierra Foothills Nicole Reed’s father prepared his family for every natural disaster that is known to man. The problem is that the one that struck was the one they were not prepared for. Nicole and her family are forced to move to a remote area in the Sierra Foothills by her father. It is also a place without any modern conveniences. For her mother it is too much to handle and she abandons them in the middle of the night. Nicole’s father heads out to track down her mother and leaves Nicole in charge of taking care of her younger sister, Izzy, and the care of the house. Nicole is doing fine running things on her own or at least at first she is. Then a forest fire starts to slowly inch closer, the pipes crack and they start to run out of food. From the neighboring community comes a handsome boy named Wolf that offers to help her out at a time when she needs it the most. Soon she must make a decision especially when she starts to have feelings for him. Feelings that she knows she will not be allowed to act on once her father comes back. As her family falls apart she must decide if she is going to start living for today or keep preparing for tomorrow’s disasters. This is a good book that keeps the reader engrossed in a story that proves to take the reader on an emotional roller coaster. As Nicole tries to keep everything together and do what is expected of her the reader gets a glimpse of what she is dealing with and thinking as she tries to figure out what is best for herself and her younger sister. Both sisters do some growing up as they deal with all that is suddenly happening in their lives. It proves to be a memorable book.
MorrisMorgan More than 1 year ago
I wish that I could give “Instructions for the End of the World” a better review. It was a book with so much potential that went flat in the early chapters. It seems as though the author tried to take on too many plots, and that caused a neglect of the main one. It tried to be many things and did not succeed in any of them. There is one good thing that I can say about the book, and that is that the central characters were extremely well-developed. There is quite a bit of back-story combined with the details of their current circumstances. Had it been limited to the three of them, the book may have turned out very differently. Unfortunately, there were way too many minor characters. Only a few could have been briefly mentioned and it not changed the story at all. It is told through four alternating points of view, and one of them is completely unnecessary to anything. It was an annoyance to even waste time with her sections. The main storyline was a good idea in theory, but there were at least three other subplots that made the flow virtually non-existent. While I understand that not every story can have a resolution, some of these were completely dropped or finished in a rush. Some of them contained important and heavy themes, so it seems all the more important to either give them the respect and time they deserve or just leave them out completely. I can’t recommend “Instructions for the End of the World” to anyone. It was too frustrating and disjointed to be enjoyable. The only reason I gave it two stars instead of one is for character development. This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
JessicaCoffee More than 1 year ago
*Instructions for the End of the World was an interesting book. On one hand, it *did* have a bit to do with preparing for the end of the world, though the armageddon prep was more a character-driven thing than actual reality. On the other hand, since there were so many different points of view and basically only one really talked about it, I'd say it was not, at all, about the end of the world. Which brings me to the reason behind the 3 star rating: that was a *lot* of points of view. Don't get me wrong: the writing was good. Nothing ever gave me pause--I didn't have to stop and say, "Wait, who is this right now?", or anything like that. Still, it just wasn't executed in a way that I enjoyed it. I think a lot of times, when you have that many POVs, you want to feel, at the end, that it was all worth it. And because this was a more quiet book, with the main issues being internal (yes, there were social conflicts, but most of the time, in the writing, you were in their heads), the build up didn't all mesh together, in the end. Not to mention the fact that the blurb kind of gives you the idea that it's this huge thing and not, like I said, a more quiet storyline. As for the characters, Wolf and Nicole were my favorites. You *do* see character growth in most of the main characters as the book progresses, so that is nice. And, like I said, the writing was enjoyable. I guess ultimately, this book is just one of those things that probably wasn't for me. Will I read another Jamie Kain book, though? Definitely.** *I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. **This book has a scene with forced sexual situation and underage drinking. For this reason, I say it is better for upper YA readers.
Deb-Krenzer More than 1 year ago
This book is not about the world ending. This is about a family. An idiot dad, a mother and two teenage daughters. The idiot dad thinks the world is ending very soon so he takes his family out to his ancestors home out in the middle of nowhere that no one has lived in for decades. This is where they are going to set up to survive the end of the world. The oldest daughter has bought into this and is good with a gun and some survival techniques. The youngest daughter likes pedicures, magazines, her Iphone and just being a girl. The story is kind of strange as to the fact there are no warning signs that the end is near. It's just in the dad's mind. The story itself was believable. The characters were believable, including the idiot dad. I found it to be entertaining. I think it was a good YA book. It wasn't too long, therefore should keep even the capricious reader interested. Thanks St. Martin's Press and Net Galley for providing me with this free e-galley in exchange for an honest review.