The Well’s End by Seth Fishman is rather an odd book, one that goes through several genre changes as you read through it. I know that’s something that doesn’t work for a lot of people, so I think this book will be pretty hit or miss with people. While I definitely liked the contemporary parts at the beginning best, I did enjoy the whole book quite a bit, and will definitely be curious about whatever Fishman writes next.
What impresses me most, I think, is the narrative voice. I found Mia to be really engaging and her voice kept me interested consistently. The author is male, but did a really fantastic job writing a believable female, without resorting to any nasty stereotypes. Mia’s highly intelligent, determined, and used to being a little bit invisible when not surrounded by a media circus wanting to know what it was like when she fell in a well as a child. She and her best friend, Jo, have a really healthy relationship, in which Mia doesn’t resent Jo for being more attractive or popular than she herself is. Sure, Mia occasionally wishes idly that she were a bit different, but she’s mostly cool with who she is, which is a pretty great attitude for a teenage girl.
The first hundred pages of the novel are straight up contemporary novel. Mia attends a boarding school for the genius children of the wealthy. Even the guys who act like the usual popular idiots I know from my time in high school have major skills. They also party hard and sneak around to have sex. At first, it’s just your usual sexy, smart boarding school book, which was totally fun.
Then there’s the first change, which I’ll tell you about, because it’s right there in the blurb and on the book cover. In the middle of a normal school day, there’s an announcement to leave class for an assembly. They’re told they’re on quarantine and that classes are cancelled for the rest of the day (though hopefully the time lost will be made up by class on Sunday, because apparently this high school is the worst). A virus has broken out and they’re all in danger of disgusting death. On top of that, soldiers in hazmat suits are surrounding the place and totally willing to shoot anyone who tries to leave. So yeah, it’s a real mess of a Friday.
What Left Me Wanting More:
I don’t want to get into what happens from that point too much because of spoilers, so I’ll offer some general reflections. One thing I really liked is the depths given to a number of the students, particularly those of whom Mia had initially judgmental. The Well’s End is very much a book about how much can be lurking under the surface of someone. The romance was mostly annoying, but I was okay with the way that Fishman made it work in the end. Some of the plot points were a bit too confusing/crazy for me, but overall I was more entertained than staring at the book going “are you for real right now?”
The Final Verdict:
If you’re up for some genrebending, then The Well’s End is a fast-paced book that’s pretty unique. Science fiction and contemporary themes combine into a thrilling attempt at survival.