________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 17. . . .January 9, 2015


The World Without Us.

Robin Stevenson.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2015.
226 pp., pbk., pdf & epub, $12.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-0680-1 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4598-0681-8 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-0682-5 (epub).

Grades 7 and up / Ages 12 and up.

Review by Lacey Hall.

*** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



The plan began almost as a joke. Not a ha-ha kind of joke, more of a black-humor kind of thing. I’d had a crappy day – I can’t even remember why. Probably a B on a paper I’d actually worked hard on, or a Very Disappointing comment from a teacher, or just more hallway stares and whispers than usual. Whatever the reason, I was feeling lousy by the time Jeremy and I met up under our tree.

“Look at you,” he said. He was lying on his side on the grass, leaning on an elbow, chin propped on his hand. “Your dog just die?”

“There is no Dog,” I said.

“Ha-ha. Come on, what’s wrong?”

“Life just sucks sometimes, that’s all.”

“Ain’t that the truth.”

And this part I remember as clear as if I’m watching it in high definition. Because Jeremy reached out his arms and pulled me in close, so that I was lying down beside him with my head resting on his chest. I could hear his heart beating and smell the fabric softener on his shirt. He stroked my short hair with one hand, his fingers cool on the back of my neck.

“If things get to bad, we can always check out, right? Like Camus said, the when and how don’t matter.”

I squeezed my eyes tightly shut. “Yeah. We’ll jump off the Skyway Bridge together.”


Being the daughter of an anti-death penalty activist, Mel finds herself thinking about death, discussing death and wondering about death a lot. When Mel meets Jeremy, she finds they share a common interest in the idea of death, and it becomes the topic most touched on in their conversations. It started out innocently enough. When Mel suggested jumping off the Skyway Bridge together, she wasn’t serious, but the more they talk about death, the more Jeremy dwells on it. For Mel, suicide was all a joke, something they fantasized about for fun. But as Mel’s feelings become stronger for him, she discovers Jeremy is tormented by the passing of his younger brother and his non-existent relationship with his father.

     When the night comes that Jeremy says he’s ready to do it, Mel doesn’t believe him, but she chooses to spend the time with him, hoping that he will finally see she has feelings for him. It isn’t until it’s too late that Mel realizes Jeremy hadn’t been joking, and it’s the aftermath of his fall that she ends up having to deal with, along with the guilt she feels at having encouraged him the entire time.

     In this novel, readers will sympathize with 16-year-old Mel and, at the same time, find themselves completely frustrated with her. As readers, we see what Mel does not, and this adds a layer to the theme and the complex nature of the story. Because the story does not conform to clear cut relationships or dimensions, the plot is believable. It’s authenticity comes in the way that Mel uses her parents’ names rather than the traditional “mom” and “dad”, in the way that death is a natural thing to talk about for Mel due to her mom, Vicky, being very passionately against the death penalty, and in the way that Mel’s and Jeremy’s relationship blurs between friendly and intimate. In real life, there are always blurred lines, and death is something no one can know anything about for sure. For these reasons, I think each of these plot points is necessary to the theme and tone of the novel.

     Ultimately, The World Without Us is a great read and focuses on a topic that deserves attention. Mel, choosing to live and Jeremy, choosing to die, provide two sides of the spectrum, allowing for readers to find significance in whatever resonates most with them.


Lacey Hall is the assistant to the Dean of Arts at Kwantlen Polytechnic University and a recent Bachelor of Arts graduate from The University of the Fraser Valley.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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ISSN 1201-9364
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