Written by: Corinne Duyvis
Release Date: March 8, 2016
Pages: 455, hardcover
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January 29, 2035.
That’s the day the comet is scheduled to hit—the big one. Denise and her mother and sister, Iris, have been assigned to a temporary shelter near their hometown of Amsterdam to wait out the blast, but Iris is nowhere to be found, and at the rate Denise’s drug-addicted mother is going, they’ll never reach the shelter in time.
Then a last-minute encounter leads them to something better than a temporary shelter: a generation ship that’s scheduled to leave Earth behind and colonize new worlds after the comet hits. But each passenger must have a practical skill to contribute. Denise is autistic and fears that she’ll never be allowed to stay. Can she obtain a spot before the ship takes flight? What about her mother and sister?
When the future of the human race is at stake, whose lives matter most?
If you haven’t read a Corinne Duyvis book, I highly, highly recommend you start. Just like her first book Otherbound, On the Edge of Gone is captivating, complex, and intertwines the characters’ diverse identities with the plot in a meaningful way.
On the Edge of Gone takes place in the aftermath of a comet hitting the earth, and focuses on an autistic girl, Denise, trying to secure a place for herself and her family on a spaceship about to leave the planet. Like Denise, Corinne Duyvis is autistic, and the nuance she is able to add to her character makes this book a welcome change from numerous others where autistic characters are treated as tragedies, learning experiences, or problems to solve. As someone who has long suspected that I might be on the autistic spectrum, I very much appreciated her.
This is a story about survival, about family about the choice between a few individuals and the greater good, how we as a society decide who is valued and why these assumptions might not always be right. It’s a powerful, important, ultimately optimistic story and one of my favorite books of 2016.
Nothing, really, for me. It’s not a plot-heavy or fast-paced book, but I didn’t really need it to be those things.
Denise is a wonderful character, and I emotionally connected to her right away. She’s smart and brave, and gets excited about cats and organizing information. Her autism is handled realistically, and, as I’ve said before, refreshingly. She struggles, and doubts herself, and gets overwhelmed, but she also comes up with good ideas that often succeed. Above all else, she is the heroine of her own story. The end of the book shows her starting to value herself more.
Just in general, the book is really diverse. In addition to being autistic, Denise is half-Surinamese, and the fact that she’s a biracial girl (as opposed to a white boy) makes it much more difficult for her to get an autism diagnosis. Her sister Iris is trans and bisexual, and there are plenty of secondary characters of different races and sexuality.
The apocalypse part of the book is amazing as well. First, the fact that it’s happen relatively close to now, and not two hundred years in the future, made it resonate so much more strongly because what if that happened during my lifetime? Second, Denise’s fight for survival is handled in a really complex way. Everyone wants their loved ones to live, and choosing the people who would be most useful in building a new world seems like a good idea–until you look at the people you’re leaving behind, who may not be “useful” (whatever that means) but still don’t deserve to die. Iris has this one line that I really loved: “Whether someone is useful only matters if you value people by their use.” (This may be a misquote, since I don’t have the book in front of me). Without giving away spoilers, the middle ground the book was able to find on this issue (at least in Denise’s situation) was a very satisfying solution.
Third, it’s one of the most optimistic apocalypse books I’ve read. Bad things happen (obviously) but the focus is on the power of people to survive and endure, on people banding together and helping each other survive painful situations. The ending filled me with hope for the characters and the world.
Absolutely! Corinne Duyvis’ voice is one you need to hear. (And if you enjoy this book, Duyvis has a short story called “And the Rest of Us Wait” in the Defying Doomsday anthology, which takes place in the same world.)