In J.L. Harden’s The Secret Apocalypse, we follow Rebecca, Kenji, Maria, Will, and Kim as they do their best to survive in a country filled with zombies. They also have to outsmart the military and the government whose aim is to keep the zombie outbreak in Australia contained as well as a secret from the rest of the world. 


What would you do if you woke up one day and found that the world as you know it has come to an end? How would you deal with life if you suddenly realize that you are the only survivor, with no one in your corner, in a world filled with chaos and anarchy? It might have been difficult to imagine such a  scenario a couple of years ago. However, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, such a thought has crossed all our minds at some point, hasn’t it? 

In The Secret Apocalypse, J.L. Harden weaves a gripping tale featuring a world on the verge of extinction. Rebecca Robinson is just a sixteen-year-old who moved to Sydney from New York a year ago. Though she is as normal as can be, her life is not bereft of grief. Her father has gone missing in action in Afghanistan and her best friend, Kenji Yoshida, ran off to join the marines without a word to her. Still, Rebecca is trying to build a life away from her past in Australia. Her new friends, Maria and Will, are always there for her. Perhaps, destiny never planned for Rebecca to be just a normal girl. On the very first day of high school, Rebecca, Maria, and Will find themselves in a country under strict lockdown. Like everyone, they think that the curfew and the restrictions will soon be a matter of the past. Maria disregards the curfew and organizes a party at her house. She convinces Rebecca and Will to join her. Out of nowhere, Kenji also reappears in Rebecca’s life. Perhaps, this would be the last normal night of their lives. The party goes awry and the teenagers, along with Will’s sister, Kim, find themselves in a deadly race for survival. A never-before-seen illness had afflicted most of the Australian population. The afflicted are on a quest to infect everyone else. There seems to be no way to stop them. Moreover, the military and the government also do not seem to be on the side of Rebecca and her friends. Their goal is to contain the illness at all costs, be it at the cost of innocent lives. 

Will Rebecca, Kenji, Will, Maria, and Kim be able to survive a world full of the diseased? Will they be able to save the rest of the Earth? 

The first book of J.L. Harden’s The Secret Apocalypse series is a treat. Harden paints a picture of a world that could very much be our reality. His apocalyptic novel starts off with a scenario very similar to the pandemic that we all experienced. This makes his book extremely relatable. Harden’s characters are normal teenagers who are compelled to grow up way before their time. With the exception of Kenji, none of them are fighters or versed in combat. However, the situation turns them into heroes. You can very well imagine yourself in Rebecca, Will, Maria, Kim, and even Kenji. They are all flesh and blood characters. Will and Maria are fun-loving and great friends. Their teenage love is something that is not over the top or fantastical. They are as real as real can be. I loved their bond with Rebecca. Kenji was a stoic soldier. I truly liked how Harden portrayed his character. He was part of the military. Naturally, he was programmed to follow orders. Seeing him fight with himself when he finally saw the truth of things made him one of my favorites. Kim was feisty and someone anyone would like in their corner. Rebecca was one amazing protagonist. In addition to all the external conflicts, she had a ton of internal issues as well. The apocalypse did not negate that. She had to deal with her own issues as well. Her complicated bond with Kenji and her gradual transformation from a young teenager to a survivor were indeed the major highlights of the book. 

J.L. Harden is an amazing author. His vivid words enliven his world of destruction for us. He transports us to the idyllic Bondi Beach. The very next second, we are there on the Sydney Harbour Bridge as it is on the verge of collapse. We feel the gunshots, the reverberations of the blasts, and the feral fear of the infected. We are there with our group of teenagers as they make life-and-death decisions in their bid to survive. 

Overall, I truly enjoyed reading J.L. Harden’s book. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series, Extinction Level.

 The Secret Apocalypse is a fast-paced and engaging read. I highly recommend this to fans of survival novels and apocalyptic books. People who like reading YA fiction with well-developed characters would love this book as well. 

Book Details

  • Title: The Secret Apocalypse
  • Author: J.L. Harden
  • Genre: Science Fiction
  • Theme: Apocalypse, Survival, Friendship, YA
  • Publication Date: January 7 2011
  • ISBN or ASIN: B004I8WNR8
  • Number of Pages: 264
  • Minimum Audience Age: 13

Book Themes

(Note: 0=none, 1=a few, 2=considerable, 3=pronounced, 4=excessive)

  • Sexual themes: 1
  • Religious themes: 0
  • Violence, self-harm, etc.: 3
  • Crude language, expletives, swearing, etc.: 2
  • Other adult themes: 1


  • Content: 5 stars
  • Writing Style: 5 stars
  • Appeal to Target Audience: 5 stars
  • Uniqueness: 5 stars
  • Editing: 5 stars
  • Other factors: 5 stars
  • Overall: 5 out of 5

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By Kajori Sheryl Paul

Reading is my passion, and writing is my compulsion. I started reading from a very early age. Since then, I have not stopped. I have garnered this addiction from my father. I have always loved reading his books. As you can see, books are my world. I escape this world to traverse the world of my books. Naturally, I have an affinity to create worlds of my own. There are thoughts constantly swirling in my head. These are the thoughts that I jot down. Sometimes, they become poems while sometimes stories. More often than not, they are just reviews of the plethora of books I read and the things I do.

One thought on “A Book Review by Kajori: “The Secret Apocalypse” by J.L. Harden”
  1. Apparently, after the COVID-19 pandemic, people either found solace or anxiety in apocalyptic narratives. I’m one of the latter. But I can see how this would make for a thrilling read!

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