Through the eyes of a California teenager, we watch the collapse of the world into silence. The plague is fast and thorough, leaving Scarlett virtually alone in Los Angeles. The early part of the book does a great job of capturing her confusion and isolation, first as the plague picks off her friends and family one by one, then as the eerie calm settles upon a depopulated metropolis.
It's hard to explain the plot further without giving away major spoilers. All I will say is, she starts meeting other survivors, and things get a whole lot worse.
I really enjoyed Levesque's previous book, Strictly Analog. This book is very different, certainly more reminiscent of dystopian YA than William Gibson. I'm not a particular fan of YA, and The Girl does rely on a couple of tropes that I think plague the genre. The main character, while likable, is portrayed as surprisingly competent and resilient (unrealistic, but practically necessary for this sort of story). Scarlett's thoughts also seem very advanced for her age, almost as though she were in her mid-twenties. Here Levesque sacrifices a little bit of plausibility for a lot of interestingness, which I guess is a good trade.*
The Girl at the End of the World is good dystopian, with a dark, gritty feel and people pushed to the brink (and beyond) by fear and hardship. The collapse is depicted with the inevitability and violence of rolling storm, leaving silence and death in its wake. You get a real sense of Scarlett's terror: the lonely nights, the fear that nobody is out there, the fear that somebody is out there. She lives in terror of the known and unknown dangers that lurk outside her door, and that fear is made worse by the fact that there's not much to do to keep her mind off her worries.
It's hard to discuss the rest of the book without giving away major spoilers. But it kept me hooked right up to the end. The book is well written, with interesting, complex characters. The book may be a little harsh for YA's intended audience. Or I might just be overprotective, in which case I think teenagers might really enjoy it.
[*] Actually, there's a bit of a spoiler-alerty reason for the apparent maturity of the narrator, but I'd rather not get into it.