Juneau, the 17-year-old protagonist of After The End, is the quintessential survivor. She survived the death of her mother, she thinks she survived WWIII (but soon finds out that was an elaborate lie), and she and the rest of her clan have learned to survive off the land in the Alaskan wilderness. Miles, the other main character, claims that you could plop Juneau down in the middle of a desert or even on the moon, and she would find a way to live.
Now she not only has to survive in a foreign landscape (that of today’s world), but find her kidnapped clan and avoid capture by the two factions who are hunting her. So you could definitely say that “survival” is one of the main themes of the Juneau books.
Frenzy has asked me to answer two questions regarding survival:
Who are your favorite survivor characters in YA?
Although I didn’t base Juneau on a certain character, there are several literary characters I have admired over the years who could be categorized as “survivors.”
1. Pippi Longstocking
I idolized Pippi when I was a little girl because she lived on her own with no parents in a crumbling house with a monkey…and managed not only to survive but to thrive. Pippi was my survival hero, and had a huge effect on me as a child.
2. Lyra from The Golden Compass
Although she’s a little girl, Lyra uses her skills—both magical (reading the compass) and innate (imagination, negotiating skills, perceptiveness)—to save herself and others.
3. Aragorn from The Lord of the Rings trilogy
I loved how rangers could live off the elements even though they weren’t born to it like elves. Mere men, they had learned how to survive off the land, almost becoming one with it when necessary.
4. Katniss from The Hunger Games
Need I say any more? Just that one word—Katniss—evokes every survival instinct out there. Makes me want to run out and shoot and climb things. They should add the word “katniss” to the dictionary as a synonym for bad-assery.
Do you have any Survival Tips?
I am more like Miles than Juneau: I hate camping unless the temperature is perfect (not too hot, not too cold) and definitely not when it’s raining. I could never shoot an animal. And cooking over a fire? Even in a fully-equipped kitchen my cooking skills are laughable.
But though I can’t give real survival tips, my whole life has been about survival—finding a way to get what I need. Taking the hard road.
For example: at age 21 I decided I wanted to move to France.
I went to a library (no internet at the time), found a book with a list of American companies with an office in France. I must have contacted over a hundred of them, but finally I landed a job with one…even though I had minimal work experience and only 2 years of high school French.
I couldn’t afford a plane ticket with the small salary I earned working at an art gallery, so I picked up a paper route. I delivered newspapers before dawn in my mom’s old car for several months until I made enough money to pay for a ticket.
After six months at my job in France, I had to quit due to a super-sleazy boss. Instead of giving up and coming back to America, I pretended I could do math (I can’t) and got a job as a bookkeeper at an international school. But for that job, I needed a work visa. So I talked my new employer into paying for me to take classes at the American university (I took creative writing, Roman literature, and computer classes) in order to qualify for a student visa.
And when that visa ran out I used my last job to pretend that I could do math (I still couldn’t) to get a job as a bookkeeper at an international government organization—the only place in Paris you don’t need a work visa. Before they could figure out I had no idea what I was doing, I applied for a transfer and got a job as an assistant in human resources.
Which is how, at 24, I found myself living legally in Paris with a well-paying job that I was actually qualified-enough to do.
I can’t make a fire in a fireplace, even with some of those fire-starting cubes. But I have learned that if I put my mind to it, I can survive, and perhaps even thrive, wherever I go. And those are the survival instincts that have brought me to where I am today.
– Amy Plum
Learn more about After the End here and check back in next Friday for more YA fun!