Excerpt from Let's Call It a Doomsday by Katie Henry, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Let's Call It a Doomsday

by Katie Henry

Let's Call It a Doomsday by Katie  Henry X
Let's Call It a Doomsday by Katie  Henry
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2019, 400 pages
    Aug 2020, 416 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Catherine M Andronik
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About this Book

Print Excerpt

"Three months of food storage is the bare minimum," I argue. "Aunt Karissa has three years."

"She also doesn't vaccinate her kids," Dad mumbles. "She should not be your role model."

"Your aunt lives in the middle of nowhere," Mom points out. "If something happened—and nothing is going to happen—it might be a while before help could get to her."

"We have Safeway right down the street," Em says, taking a bite of lasagna.

"We have five grocery stores in walking distance. And food banks. And—" Mom holds up her hands. "No, you know what? I'm not doing this." She turns to Em. "Emmy, why don't you go pick out a board game for after dinner? Anything you want." She quickly adds, "Anything but Trivial Pursuit."

"Why not Trivial Pursuit?" I ask.

"Uh, you know why not," Em says, getting up from the table.

"Sometimes the answers on the cards really are wrong, Em," I call after her as she pads into the living room.

The second Em's out of sight, Mom grabs my wrist, not lightly. I try to pull away.


"No," she says. "No more of this. I know you worry about these things. But it's irrational."

"Lisa," Dad says. "She can't control what she worries about."

"She can control what she says," Mom counters. "I know it's hard. And I'm glad you're working on it with Martha." She tightens her grip. "But you are not allowed to hold this whole family hostage because you're anxious, Ellis."

There's the word. The word that always tightens my chest, but only slices my skin when she says it. She drops my wrist.

I don't always like my family, but I love them. And I'm going to keep all of us safe, whether they like it or not.


HERE ARE THREE things my school doesn't have:

A dress code


Any real rules besides "no murder, no arson, no water guns"

Here are three things my school does have:

A campus the length and width of several city blocks

Nearly four thousand students

A halfway decent library

So though we also have an open campus during lunch, there's only one place I'll eat, and that's the library.

No one's actually supposed to eat in the library, which I understand, but it does present practical difficulties. Late in the spring semester of my freshman year, I went looking in the library stacks for a book on extreme weather patterns. It took me all of lunch to find it—the shelf it was on was in the back corner, with a wide, perpendicular set of bookshelves blocking outside sightlines. My first thought was, This would be a perfect place for a mass shooter to hide. My second thought was, This would be a perfect place for me to eat lunch.

It's a perfect place within another perfect place. And maybe a public school library wouldn't be everyone's perfect place, but it's mine. Everything about the library is routine. Every time I walk inside, the steps I take are as replicable as a lab experiment, and much safer.

I walk in the A-building and up the stairs to the second floor. I push open the glass door. I smile and say hi to Rhonda the Lunch Librarian, who does not smile back. Ours is a clandestine friendship. I head straight to the reference section and scoop up the heavy maroon book on the top shelf, five books from the left: Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology. I make a beeline for the corner by the Meteorology/Climatology section. I sit with my back against the corner stack, the most tactically advantageous position. I spread the etymology dictionary out on the mauve synthetic carpet. I take out Kenny #14. I breathe in the solitude, the books on every side of me like a cocoon, the smell of old paper and ink and a little mildew.

And for the first time all day, I can breathe out.

I unwrap my PB&J sandwich as I flip through the etymology dictionary. Sometimes I'll go in order, word by word, page by page, but today, I skip around. Parabola. Galore. Kestrel.

Excerpted from Let's Call It a Doomsday by Katie Henry. Copyright © 2019 by Katie Henry. Excerpted by permission of Katherine Tegan Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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