Agnes at the End of the World


By Kelly McWilliams

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A Bank Street Best Book of 2021The Handmaid’s Tale meets Wilder Girls in this genre-defying novel about a girl who escapes a terrifying cult only to discover that the world Outside has succumbed to a viral apocalypse.

Agnes loves her home of Red Creek—its quiet, sunny mornings, its dusty roads, and its God. There, she cares tirelessly for her younger siblings and follows the town’s strict laws. What she doesn’t know is that Red Creek is a cult, controlled by a madman who calls himself a prophet.

Then Agnes meets Danny, an Outsider boy, and begins to question what is and isn’t a sin. Her younger brother, Ezekiel, will die without the insulin she barters for once a month, even though medicine is considered outlawed. Is she a sinner for saving him? Is her sister, Beth, a sinner for dreaming of the world beyond Red Creek?

As the Prophet grows more dangerous, Agnes realizes she must escape with Ezekiel and leave everyone else, including Beth, behind. But it isn’t safe Outside, either: A viral pandemic is burning through the population at a terrifying rate. As Agnes ventures forth, a mysterious connection grows between her and the Virus. But in a world where faith, miracles, and cruelty have long been indistinguishable, will Agnes be able to choose between saving her family and saving the world?





Sickness is punishment for your rebellion. It must be corrected by prayer alone.


Agnes, are you in rebellion?”

The question startled her like a rifle’s crack in the dark. Agnes froze with her hand on the trailer’s doorknob, her backpack slung over her shoulder. It was a quarter to midnight, and her fifteen-year-old sister was sitting bolt upright in bed, staring hungrily at her.

Agnes’s pulse throbbed in the hollow of her throat, beating a single word: Caught.

She’d been sneaking out the last Saturday of every month for two years, and she’d never been seen before.

Such an obedient daughter, the matrons always said.

No one would ever suspect that such a sweet, hardworking girl regularly broke one of Red Creek’s strictest Laws—no contact with Outsiders.

It was an act for which she could be banished, and she never would’ve risked it if her brother’s life weren’t at stake. Luckily, her family were deep sleepers. But some sound—or dark intuition—had woken her sister tonight.

Are you in rebellion?

Agnes shut her eyes, dreading the truth.

She’d always wanted, more than anything, to be good. Would God understand she’d never wanted to break His Laws?

Would the Prophet, if he ever found out?

“You can tell me,” her sister coaxed. “I won’t condemn you. I’m the only one who wouldn’t.”

“Please, Beth,” she pleaded. “Go back to sleep.”

Beth was already standing, shivering barefoot in her white nightgown. Her eyes shone lambent in the dark, and Agnes felt a cold wash of fear. She was well acquainted with her sister’s stubbornness.

Oh, why couldn’t she have slept on, like all the times before?

“Wherever you’re going, take me with you.”

“It’s too dangerous.”

Beth’s eyes flicked over the living room. “I don’t care. I’m bored to death here. Please.”

The twins rolled over in their cot. Agnes held her breath, but the younger girls didn’t wake. In the far corner, a crucifix night-light illuminated Ezekiel’s sleeping face.

For as long as Agnes could remember, she and Beth had shared everything—a bed, a hairbrush, their dreams.

Everything, except this. Agnes’s only secret, too dangerous to share.

Beth’s eyes lit up. “Is it a boy? Is that it?”

Agnes pinched the bridge of her nose. She loved her sister dearly, but people whispered she was trouble waiting to happen. They whispered that she was impulsive, spoiled, vain, and exactly the sort of girl to lead an innocent boy into the shadow of the valley of death.

But Agnes loved her too much to believe it.

“No,” she said miserably. “I’m not meeting a boy. Why would you even ask me that?”

Beth cocked her head, calculating. “If not a boy, then what on earth—?”

Agnes’s cheeks burned. She hated living this shadowy double life—the lies breeding ever more lies, the constant shame like a ball of fire in her chest.

She met Beth’s too-pretty eyes, green as lake shallows, and nearly confessed.

I have no choice, she wanted to say. I sold my soul two years ago. If I hadn’t, we’d have buried Ezekiel in the meadow.

Yet to save his life was a grave-deep sin, and so it must be her cross to bear—hers, alone. As much as she loved her sister, she knew Beth wasn’t strong enough to carry that burden for long.

To save her brother’s life, Agnes bit her tongue.

“If you are in rebellion, I understand,” Beth insisted. “Don’t you know I have doubts, too? Lately, I think Red Creek is—”

Stop,” Agnes whispered fiercely. She’d had enough of her willful younger sister for one night. “It’s none of your business where I go!”

Beth rocked back like she’d been slapped. Then a chill settled over her fine features, an icy mask of rage, and Agnes trembled despite herself.

“Everyone always says you’re so faithful,” Beth bit out. “But it’s all lies, isn’t it?”

“Beth.” She willed her to understand. “I’m trying my best.”

And not everything is about you.

Agnes glanced at Ezekiel clutching his stuffed toy Sheep, then quickly looked away.

“You think I’m a child.” Beth’s voice smarted with hurt. “But you can’t keep me in the dark forever.”

“Don’t tell,” she said urgently. “Hate me if you want, but don’t tell.”

“Fine.” Beth turned her back, digging under the mattress for her diary. “But I’ll never forgive you for this. Never.

She scribbled furiously in her book, sheltering in her own little world.

Beth, I love you, Agnes wanted to say, but didn’t. Beth, I’m sorry.

She glanced at the clock, and her heart contracted. It was nearly midnight. She didn’t have much time.

Quietly, Agnes pushed open the trailer door and slipped into the evening air.

The night smelled of lavender, dust, and danger.

Agnes always met the Outsider in the King family cemetery, at the bottom of the hilly meadow that sprawled like a green carpet from their porch, unrolling all the way to the forest’s edge. The graveyard marked the boundary she absolutely couldn’t cross. The end of her world, before the wild Outside took over.

Holding a flashlight and blue picnic cooler, she hurried towards the small collection of headstones that rose from the ground like rotten teeth. The grass was velvet, the moon a white slice.

The Outsider wasn’t there.

Stomach knotting, Agnes sank among the graves to wait.

The King family had lost five children. The stones read: JEREMIAH, STILLBORN. ANNABELLE, STILLBORN. NOAH, STILLBORN. And JONAH. And RUTH.

Ruth had been a beautiful baby, and Agnes would never forget her funeral. The little wooden casket and how the baby’s tiny fingers curled inwards like petals in a bud. The Prophet said God’s will had been done when the fever took the child, and Agnes believed him. But she ached for the baby and for her mother, whom all of Red Creek blamed. It was a sign the woman had earned God’s wrath that so many children had died, and a judgment she had no choice but to accept.

In the graveyard, an electric certainty struck Agnes like lightning. Keeping Ezekiel alive—administering his shots, checking his blood, praying he wouldn’t collapse when she wasn’t there to revive him—her head swam with the mountainous, unholy difficulty of caring for a child so ill, all on her own.

She should walk away. Go home, confess, and beg God’s forgiveness. If Ezekiel fell sick—died, even—well, it wasn’t her place to interfere.

But she was glued to the earth. She loved her baby brother with her whole soul, and she’d rather lose her chance at heaven than see him so sick again.


She spun around and saw the Outsider coming towards her. A middle-aged woman dressed in her cotton nurse’s outfit. Her hair frizzed a halo around her head, and her lips were richly painted. Her skin was darker than any she’d ever seen before—an umber nearly black. The Prophet would call her a child of Cain, a member of a race damned long ago. But Agnes struggled to see her that way, carrying as she was a cooler full of lifesaving medicine in a hand spangled with rings.

Her name was Matilda, and two years ago, she’d saved Ezekiel’s life.

And thrust Agnes into this endless, living nightmare.

“Sorry I’m late.” Matilda paused, catching her breath. “It’s chaos at the hospital. Have you had much trouble here?”

“No trouble, ma’am.”

She blinked. “No sickness? Nothing strange?”

Agnes didn’t know what she was talking about and didn’t care. She wished Matilda would just get on with it, so she could get back to her world and forget all about this.

Or try.

“Oh, sweetheart, you’re pale.” Matilda touched her shoulder. “Everything okay at home? You can tell me, you know.”

Agnes looked away, blinking back tears. It would be so much easier if she could hate the Outsider. But Matilda was gentle, motherly, and Agnes had yearned for a mother ever since her own had taken to her bed. Maybe Matilda knew that. Maybe she was only playing a role. Didn’t the Prophet say Outsiders would try to trick you? That they’d hide their wickedness until it was too late?

“Do you ever wish you could leave this place? Go to school?”

Agnes bristled. “I do go to school. On Sundays.”

Matilda frowned. “I mean a real school, with other kids. A public education.”

“I’d hate that more than anything.” Agnes caught herself, lowered her voice. “Outsider teachings are against our faith.”

Matilda smiled sadly. “You’re a good girl, trying to keep faith and care for your brother, too. But Agnes, obedience and faith aren’t the same thing.”

“You don’t like us.” Agnes felt increasingly defensive. “But we’re following God’s word.”

The nurse shook her head. “Just think about it, okay?”

Outsiders are devious, the Prophet always said. Trust them at your peril.

Agnes glanced back at her trailer, small on the hilltop. Every minute she spent in the cemetery she risked everything. If someone caught her, she might never see her siblings again, and the kids were all she’d ever had.

When daylight came and her brother had his medicine, Agnes swore she’d think of the Outsider as little as humanly possible.

“Insulin for thirty days.” Matilda’s tone turned businesslike. She handed Agnes a blue picnic cooler.

It felt heavy in her hand—sinful. In exchange, Agnes passed her the empty one. Also, the piece of folded notebook paper she kept in her breast pocket: Ezekiel’s diabetes log.

In it, she tracked his blood sugar, carbs, and activity. Her chest tightened while Matilda read it over. Agnes was supposed to keep Ezekiel’s blood glucose between 80 and 130, and she tried her best. But despite constant vigilance, his log showed peaks and valleys as mountainous as Red Creek itself.

Matilda’s eyes softened. “Fluctuation is normal. You’re doing a fine job. Let me guess. You’re probably dreaming in numbers now, right?”

Agnes managed a wan smile, thinking of the carb-counter book Matilda had given her two years ago. She’d practically memorized it.

Matilda held her eyes. “Agnes. If he lived in the world, your brother could have all the power of technology keeping him alive.”

Yes, she thought sadly. But what of his soul?

Matilda sighed, resigned. “Where do you keep his insulin, anyway?”

Agnes chewed her lip, knowing how bizarre it would sound. “I bury it in my garden. Deep, where the earth is cool.”

Matilda looked shocked. “Well. I guess you can’t keep it in the fridge. You’re right that I don’t like what I’ve heard about this place. But I do like you.”

Agnes fought the urge to be flattered, which was only weakness, plain and simple. Quickly, she zipped the cooler into her backpack.

When she looked up, Matilda was frowning again, and Agnes’s stomach clenched.

“Listen,” Matilda said. “I can’t make it next month. I’m taking on more hospital shifts.”

She froze, remembering Ezekiel’s first crisis. How close death had come.

“Sweetheart, I’m sending someone else. My son. Danny.”

Her son?

Was she insane?

She opened her mouth to protest, to tell Matilda that she couldn’t under any circumstances sneak out at night to meet a boy. God would surely destroy her for that, if Father didn’t first.

She heard Beth’s voice, rebelliously eager: Is it a boy? Is that it?

Inwardly, she groaned. But the Outsider was already fishing in her purse for car keys. She left her alone and dazed among the graves.

Beneath the stars, Agnes bowed her head to pray.

God forgive me.

The Prophet was right about Outsiders. They tricked you with kindness, and nothing they said was as simple as it seemed.

If she had to meet a boy in the dark next month—a faithless, Gentile boy—she’d bring Father’s gun along with her.

In the meantime, she’d bury her secret deeper than the insulin cooler. She’d pretend she’d never met Matilda or witnessed the miracle of her medicine. When she administered Ezekiel’s shots, she’d watch the needle with only half her mind, keeping the other half pure and clean.

Every day, she’d be so faithful that God might overlook this trespass. Might even decide it was finally time to cure Ezekiel.

What a miracle it would be, Agnes thought fervently, trudging up the steep hill. If God took his sickness away.



Until marriage, stay chaste. Treat the other sex like snakes.


At dawn the next day, Agnes drew Ezekiel into the bathroom and carefully locked the door. She drew up her skirt to unstrap the glucose meter from her thigh, wincing as the tape tugged at sensitive skin.

Solemnly, Ezekiel extended the third finger of his left hand for her to prick.

The sinful screen flashed. His morning blood glucose—a safe 95.

She recorded the number in his log while he played silently with his stuffed Sheep. Then she prepared his basal insulin. With a steady hand, she plunged the syringe into his arm.

“Thumbs-up if you feel high today, okay?” she said. “Thumbs-down, if you feel—”

“Low, I know.” He chewed his lip, pouting. “But Agnes, why should I?”

She frowned. “Why signal me, you mean?”

He shook his head vigorously. “I mean, why am I sick? Why is God mad at me?”

Her chest tightened. “Oh, Ezekiel. I truly don’t know.”

His features firmed with resolve. “I’ll pray extra hard in church today. I swear.”

Tenderly, Agnes kissed his forehead—her own body burning with grief and guilt.

“Our secret, remember,” she reminded him.

He nodded. “Our secret.”

Thanks to the Outsider, he had enough insulin to survive another thirty days.

In the kitchen, Beth speared Agnes with a look so meaningful it bordered on sinful.

A look that said, You’ll regret keeping secrets from me, sister.

“Mary, go brush your teeth!” Agnes shouted, ignoring her. “Sam, help your sisters tie their shoes. I mean it.”

If they didn’t hurry, they’d be late for church.

Bells tolled and the screen door slammed. They followed Father to Red Creek’s dusty road, joining a procession of other families on their way to the white clapboard church. On the first of July, the air shimmered with unrelenting heat.

Only Agnes’s mother stayed behind. She never went to church anymore—never went anywhere. Father lied, told their neighbors she was infirm. In truth, she indulged the sin of despair, staring blankly at the bedroom ceiling, day after day.

She only came out to shower when everyone slept.

Agnes had discovered her once, her frail mother standing in the hallway, her hair lank and damp. She wished she’d never seen her mother scuttle back to her room. It was the first time she’d laid eyes on her in weeks.

Afterwards, Agnes made a point of staying in bed when she heard running water.

Father often wondered aloud when the Prophet would gift him with another, better wife. A real helpmate, this time.

“It’s a great blessing I have Agnes to keep house,” he told approving church matrons. “Honestly, I don’t know what I’d do without her.”

The road was more alive on Sundays than on any other day. Agnes loved to see three hundred of God’s faithful in their starched collars and hear all the children’s voices rising high. And there were plenty of children. Most Red Creek families were bursting at the seams. The Prophet himself had twenty-one children and eleven exalted wives.

Father hadn’t been so lucky. Agnes and Beth wondered, beneath the bedcovers, what marked him for such misfortune.

“God must’ve told Prophet Rollins that Father isn’t ready to take another wife,” Agnes said. “Maybe there’s some stain on his soul?”

“I don’t want another mother, anyway.”

“She could help with chores,” Agnes pointed out.

“Or she could be spiteful,” Beth replied. “And cause more trouble than she’s worth.”

The words made Agnes squirm, because they sounded like rebellion. God would give them another mother or not, just as He would give them away in marriage or not. But Beth had always struggled with her woman’s role.

I made the right choice, keeping Ezekiel’s secret to myself, she thought. Perfectly right.

On the road, Agnes held Ezekiel’s hand, and Ezekiel cradled his Sheep. Sam hurried to catch up with them, cheeks ruddy under the high desert sun.

“Will the Prophet preach the Rapture today? I want to hear about fire and brimstone and what will happen to the Outsiders!”

Sam couldn’t get enough of avenging angels with flaming swords.

A smile touched Agnes’s lips. “The Prophet will preach what God wills.”

“But the Rapture is so exciting! I wish the apocalypse was happening today.”

Ezekiel tugged Agnes’s hand, her cue to bend so he could speak into her ear.

“I don’t like the Rapture sermon,” he whispered gravely. “It gives me nightmares.”

“Only Outsiders need fear the Rapture,” she whispered back.

“And the rebellious, right?” Ezekiel squinted, anxious. “Won’t they be struck down, too?”

Moonlight on the King family gravestones. A syringe in her hand. And Beth asking, Agnes, are you in rebellion?

Unsettled, Agnes entered the church.

The building had been constructed in the time of the Prophet’s grandfather, with pews to seat the three hundred people of Red Creek. No windows—the Prophet said earthly light was a needless distraction. An enormous cross hung from a wire, twisting slowly on its bearings. The bronze symbol made her anxious, looking as if it were always about to fall. She soothed herself that the wire was strong.

She glanced at Ezekiel, alive by the grace of a dozen broken Laws, and swallowed.

What if her wires were faulty? What if she was the one about to fall?

She opened her well-loved Bible with shaking hands. It fell open to a familiar passage:

I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments.

“Amen,” she whispered while the cross twisted this way and that.

After the sermon, the girls filed into one annex, the boys into another.

Agnes’s eyes lingered on Ezekiel’s thin back as he disappeared behind the boys’ door. She’d stuffed his pockets, as usual, with homemade granola bars in case his blood sugar dipped low. She told herself he’d be fine, that God would watch over him. But her stomach twisted anyway.

In the girls’ room, Agnes pulled out her notebook to copy the name of the lesson scrawled on the chalkboard—Why Perfect Obedience Produces Perfect Faith.

Beth yanked Agnes’s braid and passed her a folded paper.

“I wish you wouldn’t pass notes,” Agnes murmured irritably.

But their Sunday school teacher hadn’t arrived yet. The other girls were busily chattering, enjoying their time away from chores.

The note, written in Beth’s bubbly cursive, was short and sweet:

I forgive you.

Agnes looked into her wide green eyes, surprised. Beth smiled so graciously that Agnes couldn’t help but smile back. Her sister had a good heart. Of course one single secret wouldn’t come between them.

Beth turned away, and Magda Jameson tapped Agnes’s shoulder.

Agnes felt an inwards curl of disgust.

Magda was Red Creek’s most vicious gossip. She was prone to mincing, fussing, and looking down on anyone whose father owned less land and fewer livestock. Though Agnes braced herself, nothing could’ve prepared her for the lash of Magda’s poisoned tongue.

“I heard your sister’s been tempting my brother Cory.”

Her pencil clattered to the floor. “What?”

Magda wrinkled her nose in distaste. “Everyone says she’s utterly shameless. Practically in rebellion.”

Agnes wanted to shake her for saying such a thing. Girls had been shunned, humiliated, banished for less.

“That’s vile gossip and you know it.”

Magda only smirked. Agnes was grateful when Mrs. King marched into the room, angling her hips between rows of identical desks.

“Well, girls? Who’d like to share her summary of the sermon?” Mrs. King’s eyes roamed across their faces and, finally, with a cruel glittering, fell on hers. “Agnes? Will you?”

Her stomach dropped.

Since childhood, she’d dreaded public speaking.

She looked helplessly at her hands. On her right was the ugly broken knuckle, never properly healed. She didn’t blame Mrs. King for breaking it. Her methods may have been harsh, but Agnes had dearly needed the correction.

She had spoken blasphemy, claiming to hear God—but never again.

Mrs. King sighed. “Well. I see the cat’s got her tongue.”

The other girls tittered, and Agnes could’ve died.

“You know she can’t answer in front of everyone.” Beth’s voice rang clear as a bell. “So why do you keep calling on her?”

Mrs. King’s face darkened. Agnes held her breath.

Rebellion, her heart beat. Beth, are you in rebellion?

“If you object to how I run my class, you can leave it,” spat Mrs. King. “I’m sure the Prophet will be happy to see you in his office.”

Fear buried itself in Agnes’s chest like an arrow. Beth must not choose this path. Didn’t she know what was at stake?

Punishment. Exile.

And worst of all, the wrath of God.

A long, tense pause, while the other girls watched, curious as crows.

“I only mean, it seems unfair,” Beth said—but repentantly enough.

Agnes slumped with relief.

“Careful, young lady,” Mrs. King warned her sister. “Now. Who will summarize?”

Magda’s hand shot up, and Agnes grimaced.

“The sermon was on the role of the sexes.” That mincing voice, sickly sweet and taunting. “The Prophet says that until marriage, girls must keep themselves pure and chaste, and treat men as if they were snakes.”

Beth laughed, a punched, angry sound.

Mrs. King whirled. “Who’s laughing? Raise your hand.”

Beth stared innocently at the chalkboard. No girl proved brave enough to point a finger. But the damage was done, her reputation further sullied.

Agnes squirmed, underlining the lesson’s title over and over: Why Perfect Obedience Produces Perfect Faith.

Then came a bitter rush of guilt. Beth was toying with rebellious urges—Agnes saw that quite clearly now. For years, she’d been entirely focused on Ezekiel’s illness. But all along, something dark and equally dangerous had been happening inside Beth.

She remembered her sister saying, If you are in rebellion, I understand. Don’t you know I have doubts, too?

At the first opportunity, Agnes promised herself she’d speak to her sister. She hoped it wasn’t too late to stop her from doing something stupid, or dangerous, or both.



Women are wholly incapable of interpreting God’s word.


Sundays are a day of rest.

Fortunately for the people of Red Creek, however, God Himself had revealed to the Prophet that women could still perform housework.

For Agnes, that meant mountains of laundry followed by the dull, repetitive work of ironing. Afterwards, she and Beth baked crackers for the week ahead. If they had time, they tackled mending—loose buttons, torn hems.

Today she planned to corner Beth while the crackers baked. Father had gone to his Scripture meeting. If she sent the kids outside, they could talk—really talk—alone. But when it came time to heat the oven, her sister was nowhere to be found. Not in the living room or the bathroom (where she often lingered before the mirror), or in the meadow.

While Agnes searched, her throat tightening, the twins, Mary and Faith, perched outside the screen door, practicing their reading.

M is for Mary, the Mother of our God,” they recited from a tattered workbook. “And N is for Noah, who saved the Naughty world.”

Beth disappeared sometimes. Probably, she was only scribbling in her diary at the forest’s edge. But she’d never abandoned Agnes on a busy Sunday before. Glancing at the laundry heaped on the kitchen table, she frowned.

O is for Obadiah,” intoned the twins, “who hid the prophets from Oppression.”

“Have you seen Beth?” she asked Sam.

He glanced at her, face troubled. “Something’s wrong with Ezekiel.”

Panic swooped in on black wings. “Where is he?”


  • "In a word: beautiful. With Agnes at the End of the World, Kelly McWilliams has crafted an emotional, powerful story, filled with hope and grace and utterly selfless love. Absolutely unforgettable."—p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 13.0px Georgia; min-height: 15.0px}p.p2 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 13.0px Georgia}span.s1 {font-kerning: none}Jodi Meadows, NYT bestselling author of My Plain Jane and the Fallen Isles Trilogy

  • "A powerful story, exquisitely told. Agnes is the antidote we need in our own dystopian times. She filled me with hope!"—p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 13.0px Georgia}span.s1 {font-kerning: none}Bill Konigsberg, award-winning author of Openly Straight and The Bridge

  • "Unforgettable and full of hope, Agnes at the End of the World is at times beautiful, at others dark. The love that transcends these pages is a triumph."—p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 13.0px Georgia}span.s1 {font-kerning: none}Sarah Glenn Marsh, author of the Reign of the Fallen series

  • "A truly unique gem of a book. Set during the apocalypse and featuring a disturbing virus and terrifying cult, McWilliams's tale is ultimately one of hope. Agnes is a fascinating heroine-determined, selfless, and brave. I was rooting for her from the very first page."—p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 13.0px Georgia}span.s1 {font-kerning: none}Erin Bowman, Edgar Award-nominated author of Contagion

  • "Agnes at the End of the World is a carefully woven ode to faith-finding love in the shadow of death and discovering God during the apocalypse. Agnes's journey gripped my heart and kept me turning pages well into the night."—p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 13.0px Georgia}span.s1 {font-kerning: none}Ryan Graudin, award-winning author of Wolf by Wolf and The Walled City

  • "In Agnes At The End of The World, McWilliams has created a female protagonist whose strength relies, remarkably, not on brute force but in her deep sense of spirituality. From the lyrical prologue to the satisfying climax, young adults will enjoy the journey that transforms Agnes from an oppressed child into a leader fighting for the survival of her world. In these difficult and divisive times, I find it particularly important to read stories explore a protagonist's inner strength and so I was intrigued by McWilliams's plot."—Padma Venkatraman, author, The Bridge Home, Winner of the Walter Award and the Golden Kite Award

  • "McWilliams delves deeply into the varied and complex relationships between spirituality and idolatry, feminism and patriarchy, love, family, and hope."—Booklist

  • *"In this near-apocalyptic adventure and spiritual contemplation, McWilliams provides readers with a believable world, deeply drawn relationships, and an inspiring heroine. An empowering narrative and trope-busting plotting earns this book a place on almost every shelf."—School Library Journal, starred review

  • *The ornate, complex text takes readers through Agnes' and Beth's journeys of reconciling their faith and desires, imbuing her well-rounded characters with purpose.... An excellent read.—Kirkus, starred review

  • *"Strong apocalyptic worldbuilding alternates with dialogue-laden scenes, while minor characters, such as the Burn Squad captain charged with eradicating nests, move the plot forward in absorbing and dynamic ways."—Publishes Weekly, starred review

On Sale
Jun 9, 2020
Page Count
432 pages

Kelly McWilliams

About the Author

Kelly McWilliams is a mixed-race writer. Agnes at the End of the World was a finalist for the Golden Kite Award, and Mirror Girls is a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection and Target Book Club Pick. She’s written for Time, Bustle, and Publishers Weekly among other outlets. She lives in Seattle with her family.

Learn more about this author