Hey, everybody, it’s post-apocalyptic YA from the ’80s! Home, sweet home. It even has a watercolory cover and a fresh-faced, all-American heroine named “Janie Johnson”! This book was brought to my attention recently [and by “recently,” I mean about six months ago, when I actually read it — Ed.] by an old friend, who presented me with this name-that-book challenge over the phone: “It’s a book I read when I was a kid. Some kids are hiding underground when aliens attack and destroy the whole world.”
At first I was shamed, because how is it possible that there’s a book I haven’t read fitting that description? But when my friend figured out the title and emailed it to me, I realized that it’s set in the same universe as The Turning Place, one of my favorite childhood books! The Turning Place tells the story of humanity after the Clordian Sweep (the aforementioned alien apocalypse) in a series of short stories, skipping hundreds of years or more between each tale. I’m a sucker for sci-fi that leaps centuries in a single bound; it’s comforting somehow. If things suck now, shall we try 300 years in the future?
Strange Tomorrow is only two stories, but it uses the same trick. The first half is about the first Janie, who is alone with her military father and younger brother in the President’s Cold War bunker when the Sweep destroys (almost) every living thing on earth. Janie is able to convince her family to want to survive and make the best of their worst possible situation.
The second half follows Janie #2, named for that first Janie a couple of generations later. It turns out that some life survived in valleys and caves, so the handful of survivors were able to grow food and live outside the bunker. Janie is part of a small group ordered to start a new village in a different valley a few days’ walk away. She fears the isolation, and is convinced that it must be better to stay in contact, but that is not The Way Things Are Done.
If you need more 80s post-apocalyptic YA in your life (and who doesn’t?), give this a go. I can’t imagine a much more complete devastation than the Clordian Sweep, but the charmingly resilient heroines will make you feel hopeful, even though the only animals left in the world are the bees, rabbits, and chickens whose eggs were frozen in the bunker. And probably some cockroaches.