Stephen was born after The Collapse, so he never knew the US that we do. China and the US went to war and when the US dropped nukes and the Chinese dropped bombs filled with a deadly virus that wiped out the country in short order. Mostly everyone died. The Chinese claimed the land west of the Rockies. Everything east of the Rockies is made up of salvagers, like Stephen, his dad and grandpa, who roam around looking for things to trade at one of the two big trade events during the year, one in Florida and one in Canada. There are also slavers out there who are cruel and vicious, making slaves out of the pockets of people they find in the largely unoccupied, broken world that is starting to turn back to nature, with vines cropping up and animals running wild, like I am Legend, but like, with people!
I don't want to give a lot away, but Stephen and his dad end up in a little town of sorts that has worked together to start over. This is where the book started to slow down and make me angry at the same time. Stephen meets up with a completely obnoxious and arrogant girl who yes, has been through a lot, but so has everyone. They instantly fall in love, or something like it, and Stephen risks everything and pretty much ruins a lot of people's lives. I don't see how Stephen is any kind of hero in this book at all and it was just so aggravating to see him make stupid, stupid choices and then it became offensive because he and the girl become so destructive and ridiculous that there finally was no way to care about Stephen at all. I am sure this will be a sequel, but I probably won't read it, even though the first part wasn't bad and it had promise.