This is Not the End


By Chandler Baker

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** An emotional page-turner from the New York Times-bestselling author of The Whisper Network **

If you could choose one person to bring back to life, who would it be?

Seventeen-year-old Lake Deveraux is the survivor of a car crash that killed her best friend and boyfriend. Now she faces an impossible choice. Resurrection technology changed the world, but strict laws allow just one resurrection per citizen, to be used on your eighteenth birthday or lost forever.

You only have days to decide.

For each grieving family, Lake is the best chance to bring back their child.

For Lake, it’s the only way to reclaim a piece of happiness after her own family fell apart.

And Lake must also grapple with a secret–and illegal–vow she made years ago to resurrect someone else. Someone who’s not even dead yet.

Who do you need most?

As Lake’s eighteenth birthday nears, secrets and betrayals new and old threaten to eclipse her cherished memories. Lake has one chance to save a life . . . but can she live with her choice?


For Rob, we’ve created some
wonderful things together

The most formative memory of my life isn’t even my own. It doesn’t matter that I wasn’t there to see it happen, that I didn’t feel the rip of pain or hear the solitary shriek followed by silence, I’ve still managed to live that moment a thousand times. One thousand times I’ve told myself the story from his perspective. One thousand times I’ve tried to rewrite history and failed.

Here’s what I recall.

Big, soggy clouds hanging low in the sky, the last drizzle having been wrung out of them. It’s not an important detail, but if it hadn’t been a rainy day, we would have been on the back porch or down on the shell-y stretch of gray beach behind our house. I know the rain must have made Matt bored, because usually I was the one climbing things and getting scraped-up knees those days, mainly because Matt was too old. He did still read to me about talking lions and magical queens that turned the world to ice, but I also caught him talking on the phone to girls occasionally, and I didn’t like it.

In the memory, I’ve tried to edit the weather, but it never works. The story won’t hold together without it.

Our neighborhood has a palm tree infestation, which is to say that there are palm trees everywhere and their roots try to choke out any plant that dares to grow nearby. They can make other kinds of trouble too. The tall ones that mark the property line around our house have to be supported at the base with wooden beams so that the giraffe-like trunks don’t topple over and gouge holes in our roof.

So it’s notable that we have one of the only oak trees in a one-mile radius. Since nobody can climb palm trees, I can attest to the fact that looking at a nice, solid oak does tend to give you the urge to hike an arm over one of the branches and climb it. In other words, I get where Matt was coming from. I just wish for the thousand-and-first time that I could change it. But, like I said, he was bored and must have just finished a book—actually, yes, I remember that, one of his books about aliens or sorcerers—and that oak tree is right outside his window. Maybe if the previous owners hadn’t planted it there or if Matt and I had swapped rooms, maybe none of this would have happened. But they didn’t, we didn’t, so we’re stuck in it.

Matt went outside. He rubbed his hands on his pants and over the bark. The air smelled like damp wood with a hint of seaweed, since we’re so close to the shoreline. He could see bits of sand trapped in the tree’s crevices because, of course, sand gets everywhere—even in our ears sometimes. There are times when I relive this story that I find myself wiping my own hands, and then I realize that I’m not in the memory and Matt’s hands don’t work anymore.

He had a new paperback shoved in his back pocket, and he’d decided to read it from up in the tree, like one of the boys in The Swiss Family Robinson. So he stretched onto his tippy-toes until he could reach the lowest branch. The bark stung the inside of his arm as he hoisted himself onto the lowest branch. He enjoyed the sensation of his dangling feet and climbed higher so that there was more air between his shoes and the ground.

The branches creaked under the soles, but there were fat, sturdy limbs above him. So Matt scaled farther up the oak, careful not to slip on the wet wood. This is the part where I try to tell Matt to stop. End the story here. Turn back. Go no farther.

The last branch that he hooked his arm over looked like all the others. He didn’t see the gash between the limb and the trunk. He didn’t feel it give under his weight until all of it was already pressing down and it was too late.

I wish I didn’t remind myself of this so much. Then maybe I could un-remember the memory.

Too late.

The sound was the cracking of bone. Flashes of leaves and twigs that tore at his shirt and neck. His stomach shot up to his throat as his torso fell unevenly toward the dirt, which was packed hard from the rain. Time stopped. Just like it does in the movies. Everything else crawled into slow motion.

It felt like he was falling forever.

Then, when his back hit the ground, it seemed like there would never be breath in his lungs again, and his spine splintered like thin ice under a footstep, forking off into spidery veins that fractured the world—into before and after.

When I was eight, I watched a woman jump from a bridge while my mother and I were stuck in traffic. Her arms spread out like a bird’s wings, and for a moment she was suspended, the wind catching her blouse like a sail. Then the moment snapped and she fell from the air. Her body cracked against the water. And her existence was snuffed out. Gone.

So for as long as I can remember, I’ve known that water’s strong and solid enough to kill. I think of an early memory of my brother standing on the shore behind our house while I picked my way barefoot across a stone jetty that protruded out into the sea. “If you fall,” he said, “I’ll bring you back.” He had puffed out his chest and pushed his crop of sandy-blond hair out of his eyes, squinting into the sun that reflected off the water. He was so unbroken then, his forehead crumpled into a worried knot of skin at the top of his nose as he tried to sound brave. I’ve always been the daredevil between us.

I watch the water now frothing against the rocks below me like a rabid animal. My toes hook precariously over a jagged rock face. The distance is thirty-odd feet, far enough to send needle pricks through the soles of my feet, not far enough to crush my bones on impact. I consider this a happy medium.

Then there’s the thwack of bare soles behind me. A shadow crosses. A foot plants inches from mine. “You snooze, you lose, suckers!” My boyfriend, Will, tucks his bronzed legs into a cannonball. His hair—which at this stage of the summer now matches the color of his skin—spikes up and trails after him, fluttering in the furious rush of wind as he plummets into the ocean. Behind him, a white plume of water gushes up and he disappears below the surface.

I glance back. “You’re next.” I gesture to Penny, who stands three carefully measured feet from the ledge. She is so not a daredevil. More the yin to my yang.

From that vantage point, I imagine she can see the horizon, but not the drop waiting below.

“No.” She shakes her head, swishing a so-blond-it’s-nearly-white ponytail across her shoulders. “I can’t. I want to. I really do. I just…” She has this way of bowing in her knees like she has to go to the bathroom, literally shrinking into herself. I know this as the first telltale sign of chickening out.

I lean on one leg and peer back over the ledge where Will has resurfaced. He treads water and tosses his head so that ocean spray flies out and plasters his hair over his right eyebrow. He cups his hands around his mouth and calls up to Penny: “Get it together, Hightower.”

We discovered this point two months ago while we were swimming offshore of the public beach. From the surface, we took turns diving as far down as we could, trying to see if we could touch the bottom to find out whether it was safe enough to jump. It was Will who had tried it first. I had held my breath, waiting for a scream—or worse, nothing. But Will had come up laughing and baiting us in after him. Will and I have been coming back once a week like kids circling the line at an amusement park.

Staring down, my pulse thumps in the webbed skin between my thumb and pointer finger. The feeling of my stomach leaping clear into my throat is there even before I step into thin air.

I look back at Penny, who is quivering in a turquoise triangle-top bikini and using her eyes, the color of sea glass, to plead with me. I consider myself the definitive expert on all things both Will and Penny, and this, I know, will be good for her. With just a few weeks left of our last summer together, her chances to conquer her fear of heights are dwindling.

“Think about it this way,” I tell her. “You just start from there and keep on walking. One step, that’s all you have to commit to and then—poof!—no turning back.”

“Keep on walking…off a cliff,” she says. Goosebumps pop up all over her skin, even though the air is the temperature of a Jacuzzi. “You forgot to mention that part.”

“If all your friends jumped off a cliff, wouldn’t you?” I quirk an eyebrow and hold out my hand. “We’ll do it together.”

She closes her eyes and takes a deep, soothing breath, pinching her thumb to her middle finger. It’s what she calls her “centering” ritual, and since she’s not looking, I don’t mind rolling my eyes. Penny is a devotee of yoga and Eastern meditation, much to the confusion of her Jewish parents. As for me, I’m more act first, think later. Penny, on the other hand? Think first…and then think some more.

After a moment, she swallows and nods, then gingerly steps closer to me. Her palm locks against mine, hot and damp, covering up the silvery crescent-shaped scar on the side of my hand left over from where a dog bit me a couple of years back. Between heights and fang-toothed fluff-balls, I’ll take the death-defying drop any day.

Penny peers down her nose at the water below. The waves break in white crests, slamming up against the rock face, but I’m not worried. Penny’s a good swimmer. It’s the jumping she needs work on.

“The only way the bottom gets closer is if you get farther from the top,” I say. “You ready?”

Her lower lip quivers. “You’re sure this is safe?”

I squint. “I’m living proof, aren’t I?” At this she looks me over as if to double-check that I am, in fact, alive and therefore suitable evidence. She squeezes my hand tighter. “Okay. On three. One…” I bend my knees. “Two…three…” I swing my arm and lunge out into the open air. Penny’s fingers immediately slip from between mine, and all of a sudden I’m grasping nothing but wind. I try to turn to see if she’s with me, but I’m falling too fast. The air whistles in my ears. Sky and sea roar around and through me. It’s a split second before the ocean stabs my legs and the tough skin on the bottom of my feet.

A gush of salt water rushes into my nostrils. My sinuses burn. I squeeze my eyes tighter and kick. Bubbles pour out my nose and the tide drags me back and forth horizontally while I struggle up, up, up.

I fight against the undertow and the water grows warmer, which is how I know that I’m headed in the right direction. My mouth breaks the surface and I gulp air down. My hair clings to my head and neck and I’m grinning, shaking the water out of my ears and swishing my legs furiously to tread water.

I glance up and there’s Penny waving at me from the top of the cliff. “I couldn’t do it!” Her voice echoes down the cragged face. “I’ll meet you guys down there.”

“Pen—” But splashing is coming from behind me and before I can get a word out a weight pushes down on my shoulders and water charges through my parted lips. Sinking back under, I work to pry the calloused fingers away. Then, twisting, I give Will a sharp jab to the ribs. He swims backward and I come up coughing and laughing before whacking my arms against the water and splashing him square in the face.

“Truce! Truce!” he calls, dog-paddling toward me. I let a few sips of salt water fill up my cheeks, and then when Will’s hands are on the straps of my bikini bottoms and he’s leaning in for a kiss, I spit a fountain of water at him, giggling and retreating with a backstroke for safety. “Hey! I called truce!” He runs his hand over his eyebrows and down his face. “A blatant violation of the rules of engagement.” He snatches my ankle just as I’m almost clear of his reach and tows me back where he plants a wet kiss on my cheek. I scrunch up my shoulders and make a show of not liking it even though it’s obvious to us both that I do.

“Let’s hurry up. I’m so hungry I could eat a woolly mammoth,” I say.

“Why not just an elephant?” Will asks.

“An elephant? But they’re adorable.” I dip my head underwater, wetting my hair so that it slicks straight back. “God, Will, I’m not a monster.”

Will swims in front of me and I wrap my arms around his neck so that he’s giving me a swimming piggyback ride. “I could eat a pterodactyl. I bet they taste like the chicken of the sky,” he says grandly.

“We’re strange, you know that?” I rest my chin on the crook between his neck and shoulder. He smells like seaweed and coconut suntan lotion.

He shrugs. “Three more weeks until your great, big, epically magnificent, cowabunga awesome birthday surprise. Have any guesses?”

I feel the steady beat of his legs underneath me, kicking calmly toward shore. His broad shoulders tense and relax with each stroke.

“Does the birthday surprise have a nickname? Because that seems like a bit of a mouthful.”

“Oh, that is the nickname. That’s how awesome the surprise is.” Will doesn’t do understated. Sometimes I worry that if we ever get married, Will’s proposal will involve a large-scale choreographed dance number and singing animals, if he can swing it.

“Let’s see. Last year you took me on a helicopter ride during which I puked in a bag. The year before that you rented a party bus to take us all to see a cheesy horror-movie marathon. So, that’s land and air. I’m going to guess water this year. A boat! You’re taking me on a boat!” I squeeze him harder around the neck.

He lifts a hand and wipes water from his eyes. “I’d tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.”

“But then there’d be no one left to bring me back.” I jut out my lower lip. “I think that’d sort of defeat the whole birthday-surprise hoopla.”

“Then I guess I’d better not tell you.” He tickles the bottom of my feet. I cringe and curl my legs more tightly around him. Penny, Will, and I all have summer birthdays—Penny thinks that’s part of why we all get along so well, and as much as I scoff at her stargazing horoscope babble, she may be on to something, because all three of us could basically live on the beach, and that’s one of my favorite things about us. I mean, I’d die if Penny made us go hang out at the mall or something.

The two of them have both turned eighteen already—their birthdays are only a week apart, with Penny being the older one. Their closeness in age is why their moms are best friends. Neither Penny nor Will used their resurrections on anyone. There are rumors that a few kids in our class might be using their resurrection choices this year. Penny thinks her aunt resurrected somebody back when she and Penny’s mom were teenagers—back before the Pickering Regulations passed to control population growth by only allowing one resurrection choice on a person’s eighteenth birthday—but none of us know if it’s true or not. I don’t think I personally know anyone who’s used their choice. The thought makes my stomach clamp down on itself like a steel trap.

Because there it is. The countdown. Ticking away in the back of my brain. Just over three more weeks until my eighteenth birthday, and then…

“How about a hint?” I ask, because I want to focus on the good part of my birthday, the part where I get to spend it with my two favorite people in the world. Nothing else.

“So greedy.”

“Come on, a pre-pre-birthday present.”

Will pauses. He spits some seawater from his mouth. “Your wish is my command.” And then he just stops. I feel the grin in his cheeks.

“Yes…and…?” I prod.

“That’s your hint.”

I splash him in the face but manage to get myself in the nose just as much as I get him. The salt burns. “That’s not a hint, you cheater.”

He shrugs and readjusts my weight on his back. “Guess you’ll just have to finish the hunt to find out.”

I groan. This is so Will. “What kind of hunt?” I whine. “Are we talking treasure, Easter egg…deer?”

He laughs. “Deer? And risk the wrath of Penny?”

The sinking sun spreads golden fingers of light up to the beach. The water grows shallower and I can feel Will bouncing along on his toes to keep our heads above water. I dip a toe down, but it’s still too deep for me to stand, so I lay my cheek on Will’s warm, sunburned shoulder and close my eyes. “You know you’re not as charming as you think you are, Will Bryan,” I say with a sigh.

But really all this talk about my great, big, epically magnificent, cowabunga awesome birthday surprise has done is get me thinking of my birthday and what it means. How I’ll have to sit alone among strangers in the waiting room, scan my fingerprints, fill out my paperwork for the resurrection, arrange for the body to be brought to the resurrection site, wring my hands while that body lies on a cold metal gurney and is injected by faceless doctors with the lifeblood, then try to breathe while the vitalis process restores the dead cells until they’re completely undamaged. I’ve run through the steps in my mind a thousand times.

And none of this is Will’s fault. He doesn’t know what I’m planning to do on my eighteenth birthday.

One resurrection, one choice, one person, and unlike Will’s and Penny’s, mine is already spoken for.

I unfurl my arms from around Will and together we crawl up to shore. Penny reversed the Jeep so that the wheels are backed up to the sand. She honks the horn and sticks her hand out of the roof, waving us in. Penny has the kind of Jeep without doors or a roof and instead just a roll bar on top. During the summer we practically live in this car, like a band of sand-crusted beach bums.

Will and I trudge up the rest of the shore and climb into the Jeep, sandy feet and all. I take shotgun next to Penny, and Will scoots to the center seat in back so he can poke his head through. Penny wouldn’t mind if I sat in back with Will, and I know we’re lucky for that. She’s not the type of friend to tell us to get a room or to lay off the public displays of affection even though there’ve been girls at school who’ve made sidebar remarks to me about how it must be annoying for Will and me to have to cart around a “third wheel” all the time, comments that I’m sure Penny’s heard before too. And that’s exactly why none of them are my best friends.

Penny has never once made me choose between time with her and time with him. Not that I could possibly. The three of us are like our own little self-sustaining island. We once spent an afternoon negotiating a fake custody arrangement for Penny in case Will and I ever broke up, and I only won primary custody by a hair. The whole exercise made us laugh until Penny peed a little in her shorts and had to run to the bathroom. I mean, Will and I are an institution.

“I can’t believe you chickened out.” I gently shove Penny’s shoulder from my spot in the passenger seat. This is nicer, I decide, than saying I can totally believe you chickened out, you big chicken, since Penny’s skittish about spiders, global warming, the potential of contracting a deadly virus, and basically anything else I can think of, which is funny since what she doesn’t find frightening is sporting fashions that have never been in style, well, ever, or making impassioned pleas to save the whales to a roomful of her peers while they are playing Minecraft on their phones. I prefer to let my actions do the talking—it’s way simpler.

Penny flicks her gaze to the rearview mirror and slides her unpainted nails down the base of the steering wheel. “I’m like a fine bottle of wine, Lake, I’ll be ready in my own time.”

I reach over and begin to flip through the radio stations.

“What do you think’s going to happen exactly?” I ask. “I mean, you watch us jump. Do you think you’re just going to spontaneously combust in midair?”

From the backseat, Will puts his toes up on the console between me and Penny. Penny wrinkles her nose and pushes them back onto the floorboard, then sighs, putting the Jeep into drive and pulling out of the small beach-access road onto a rarely trafficked two-lane highway. “I don’t know. I’m scared I’m going to spaz out or not jump far enough, and then I’ll just plummet straight down the side of the cliff and, yeah, die. That’s the scenario. I’m going to die a gruesome, bloody death. That’s what I see every time I step up to the edge,” she says, sliding a pair of cat-eye sunglasses over her nose. “Now is that really so far-fetched?”

“Yes,” Will and I both answer in unison.

Penny tosses her hair over her shoulders and waves us off. “What took you guys so long anyway?”

Will leans between us. “We were discussing Lake’s great, big, epically magnificent, cowabunga awesome birthday surprise. She was trying to pry hints from me, but as you all know, I’ve got it under lock and key like it’s a goddamn national treasure.” Will settles himself back into the seat. I look back to see him looking smug. We all know Will is the actual worst at keeping secrets. Far too excitable. In fact, I give him a week on this whole birthday thing, tops.

That’s why it’s Penny who sneaks a sideways look at me, then reaches over and squeezes my hand. Penny’s the only one who knows that, for years, I’ve been approaching my eighteenth birthday with a sick sense of anxiety. Because she’s the only one who knows my resurrection has been earmarked to be used for someone who’s not even dead yet.

I squeeze back twice so that she knows I’m fine. I have the two of them.

Penny follows the curve of the road, and the wind begins to air-dry my skin and hair. As if to echo my thoughts, though, we pass a billboard on the side of the road that reads: ARE YOU PREPARED? SUMMER SAVINGS ON CRYOPRESERVATION FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY! The billboard, which features the left half of a beautiful female model’s face—skin frosted with beads of ice, frozen crystals glittering from her hair and eyebrows—wasn’t there last week. In the last few decades, facilities specializing in cryonics, the process of low-temperature body preservation, have multiplied, giving families a low-cost means to preserve their loved ones while they wait for a member of the family to reach resurrection age. Parents even purchase cryonics insurance for their kids. But lately, I’ve wanted to ignore the resurrections. They only remind me of death. And so I’m thankful when the advertisement disappears in the distance behind us.

I stare out at the white jasmine that lines the side of the road, interspersed with red and orange wildflowers. We’re whizzing along the stretch of road when I feel a tap on my shoulder. I turn to see Will unbuckling his seatbelt.

“What are you—?” I ask.

He tucks his legs underneath him, and pushes himself to stand on the seat, his fingers wrapped around the Jeep’s roll bar, gripping tightly.

Penny does a double take in the mirror. “Will!” She stretches her arm back and tugs on his ankle. “Will, get down from there. You’re going to make me get a ticket.”

But Will tilts his face up to the sun like he’s praying.

“Not funny, William.” Penny looks back at the road. And I can tell she kind of means it. Penny rarely gets mad. Occasionally she and Will get into it about something dumb—bound to happen after eighteen years of friendship—but overall, when it comes to minor annoyances, she’s, like, some sort of Zen master.

Will reaches a hand down for me. “Come up here,” he says. Fine bits of salt crinkle into the folds of skin around his eyes as he squints in the sun. Sometimes I think that I love Will so much that my heart will combust. It actually embarrasses me, because I know that it’s the type of thing that if I tried to put into words would just sound weird and stupid and make both of us uncomfortable. So then I get this feeling of trying to carry it all around in my chest, a feeling that’s too big to fit, like a balloon on the brink of being filled with so much helium it pops. Luckily for both of us, Will’s the one who’s good at this sort of thing, at grand romantic gestures and sappy words that, even though they make me blush or even occasionally cringe, somehow fit him. More than that, they make Will Will. Something about the tone and rhythm in the way he speaks that makes it all sound confident, casual, earnest, and innocent at once.


  • "This Is Not The End uses the abundant drama of Lake's predicament as a powerful fulcrum of self-exploration and revelation... Thought provoking and emotionally satisfying, readers will turn the book's last page and wish ironically that This Is Not The End was not really over."Kenny Brechner, DDG Booksellers in Farmington, ME

  • "THIS IS NOT THE END by Chandler Baker is unputdownable. Literally, I read it in one sitting and these characters--and that twist, oh the twist!!-- have stuck with me for days. What if resurrection was a reality? This twisty, mesmerizing novel is like We Were Liars and Sophie's Choice with a trace of Unwind. A story of impossible choices that is as layered as it is exciting."Holland Saltsman, The Novel Neighbor in St Louis, MO

  • "Chandler Baker's THIS IS NOT THE END.... is on one level a twisty, unputdownable journey, a dark crowdpleaser that does not let up, even in its final pages-- think: We Were Liars. And it's also a deeply moving meditation on love, loyalty, and grief, and one of the best YA novels I have read since A.S. King's I Crawl Through It. A book you can hand as easily to a teen as you can to a loyal book club." Rob Dougherty at Clinton Bookshop In Clinton, NJ

  • "THIS IS NOT THE END captures a teen's voice nearly perfectly. Despair is pronounced in this futuristic novel that reads as a suspenseful thriller - the secrets, the twists and the turns will keep the pages turning... Read on, because even the last pages hold huge surprises!"—Kristen Hess, Let's Play Books! in Emmaus, PA

  • "This Is Not the End is full of characters to connect with... Chandler beautifully captures the difficult emotions that come with grief, acceptance, and unimaginable choices... She has taken a human desire: to bring loved ones back from the dead - to have just a little bit longer, and brought it to life, forcing her readers to examine this dream, to want it, and to doubt it."—Hannah Walcher, Books Inc in San Francisco, CA

  • "Lake's journey of self-discovery is emotional and surprising, and will stay with readers."—Publishers Weekly

On Sale
Aug 7, 2018
Page Count
384 pages

Chandler Baker

About the Author

Chandler Baker grew up in Florida, went to college at the University of Pennsylvania, and studied law at the University of Texas. She now lives in Austin with her husband, though her heart remains at the beach. She strongly believes that writing quality improves vastly if done while staring out at a large body of water and daydreaming. Chandler is the author of the young adult thriller Alive, as well as the High School Horror series. You can visit her online at

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