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This is how I remember the book. It starts with the main character (young teen boy) who wakes up to his family gone, he goes outside and the whole street is desolate, no one. He takes a car and goes searching for anyone he can find but everyone's vanished.

He eventually comes across other teens, close to his age and they kind of hole up in a mall, or something like that. The book kind of just goes along with them surviving. At the end of the book they find a door, or random portal thing and the main character along with a girl from the group (I think they have a romance in the book), they decide to go through it together and they come through in this new different world and it ends there with them saying something like "we'll figure this world out together" and it ends.

I've searched for this book for over 20 years.

  • One possibility could be the Left Behind books, a series of 16 novels published from 1995 to 2007. I never read any of them but I hear they begin with the disappearance of many humans. – M. A. Golding Oct 9 '18 at 17:35
  • Thank you, this just might be it! – BrittanyN Oct 10 '18 at 12:57
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Your description reminds me of The Vanished by John Peel... there are a number of differences, though, so it may not be the book you're looking for.

The book does begin with a teen who wakes up to find all other people vanished, the streets and cities empty, no one there. He drives around, and ends up finding a few other people - maybe four kids total remain, two boys and two girls? They do stick together, hole up somewhere - can't recall if its a mall, but it'd make sense - ans spend time trying to figure out what happened as well as figuring out how to survive with no one else. And in the end it does come down to two, one boy and one girl (and yes to romance), on a new and empty world that will belong to them.

So, like I said, quite a bit of similarity.

The differences are, that, in this book there's a subplot in the "where did everyone go" category, the kids hunt down answers and eventually find someone who knows (not a teen, an adult in an environment suit), and find out what happened.

what actually happened, was, the kids were kidnapped away as part of an experiment on communal belief creating reality (people who reinforced, or enforced this belief, kept it stable when individual belief might fluctuate, were called cornerstones)... the world they were on was actually empty and uninhabitable (toxic) but because they didn't know, they believed they were still home and created or superimposed their expected, habitable, surroundings on the new world. It was thus necessary in their eyes for the kids to be kidnapped, and then to be kept ignorant, since doubt would undermine the habitable... illusion? terraforming? whatever. And the kids would then die.

A plot point ended up being the empty cities, with all the technology, etc of their world was too complex, and their numbers (~4) too few, to sustain the terraforming. I don't recall what happened to the other teens - captured, lost, dead, decided to cooperate with the ones running the experiment... The last two end up running away, and decide the empty pastoral garden is much more sustainable - so it ends up being their own personal garden of eden, or somesuch.

So while there's a great deal of overlap, the missing where-did-people-go plot point is pretty significant to the novel, and if it wasn't in your recollection this may not be the book you read. It seems close enough to offer, though.

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  • I think that could be it! I'm going to buy it asap so I can see if that was it. Like I said I've searched for this book now for almost 22 years so there's a chance I could have forgotten large chunks of it. – BrittanyN Oct 10 '18 at 12:57
  • @BrittanyN: Did you ever find out whether this was your book? – FuzzyBoots Nov 8 '18 at 21:14
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Could it by Gone by Michael Grant? Sounds similar, anybody over 13 vanishes one day and the kids have to find a way to coexist. Later they find out that they are trapped under a large dome by some sort of creature. There is a love plot between the two main characters.

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  • 1
    Too recent, as the first book was published in 2008, but yeah going by the title alone that was my first thought as well. – Jenayah Feb 11 '19 at 7:50
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It's not a perfect match, but another possibility is that this might be Empty World by John Christopher. Unlike some other possibilities, the population does not disappear instantaneously; they suffer from a plague that causes rapid aging. However, the main character Neil is suffering from several post-traumatic stress disorder while it is happening, and he does not really grasp what is going on until much of the population is already deceased.

Subsequently, he does take a car and drives off to located other teens who are still alive, including a girl, Lucy, who he becomes romantically involved with.

Per Wikipedia:

15-year-old Neil Miller is orphaned following a car accident and goes to live with his grandparents in Winchelsea, England. Neil suffers post traumatic stress from the car accident and stays detached from his peers despite their occasional attempts to involve him. News travels of a new disease, called the Calcutta Plague due to its origin, which accelerates the aging process in human beings. The plague is uniformly fatal, and although initially only affects those of already advanced years (claiming an old teacher at his school and both his grandparents), it quickly progresses until it takes the life of a 2-year-old girl (Susie) who Neil finds and attempts to look after. During this time Neil notes that he has contracted the plague, but after a brief fever it leaves him unaffected. The death of the girl (and earlier her 6-year-old brother, Tommy) leaves Neil the sole survivor of Winchelsea, and after deciding that Winchelsea is becoming dangerous—due in part to packs of wild dogs—he leaves for London, taking first a manual Mini which he has difficulty driving, followed by an automatic Jaguar.

Arriving in London he meets his first fellow survivor—the mentally unbalanced Clive, who although friendly towards Neil, during the night vandalizes his car to the point of destroying it, steals his mother's ring that Neil had kept which was the only memory of his mother he had visibly, and then abandons him in central London.

After finding the body of another survivor, Peter, who had committed suicide only hours before Neil found him, he is again despondent, but finds evidence of other survivors which brings him into contact with Billie and Lucy.

Billie is openly hostile towards Neil, and it is implied that she has suffered in some way either during the plague or directly after it, but Neil becomes friends with Lucy and starts a romantic relationship with her—much to Billie's disgust.

During this time Neil notes that the dogs have been supplanted by even more dangerous rats, and at least one big cat has escaped from a local zoo and although unseen is heard outside their flat. To this end Neil arms himself with a pistol and ammunition taken from a sporting goods shop.

Billie and Neil continue to argue over an unspecified period of time, with Lucy gradually taking Neil's side in arguments, until eventually during a foraging expedition Billie attempts to kill Neil by stabbing him in the back with a kitchen knife. The attack is shown to be premeditated as when Neil tries to defend himself with the gun he finds that it has been unloaded.

Neil is injured, but overpowers Billie and returns to Lucy, where they lock Billie out and decide to move on to a previously discussed farmhouse. Billie arrives back at the house and pleads with both Lucy and Neil to let her back in, but they decide that they could never trust her again, and leave her outside. In the last paragraph of the book Neil abruptly changes his mind, feeling that he would never get over the guilt of leaving Billie to die, and with Lucy goes downstairs to open the door and let her back inside.

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