Let’s (Not) Panic Like It’s 1999: How Doomsday Dani Came to Be - Carissa Turpin

In many ways, the protagonist of my middle grade novel, Dani Collier, is a normal tween girl. She attends middle school, which she finds dull and unimportant. She likes to draw, play video games, and bicker with her little sister. There’s one characteristic, however, that sets her apart: it’s 1999, and Dani is a doomsday prepper obsessed with the forecasted Y2K disaster.

            Like most ideas that germinate in my brain, Dani was inspired by my students. In 2019, I was working as a language arts teacher at McKemy Academy of International Studies in Tempe, Arizona. It was the final day of school before holiday break, the bell signaling dismissal had already chimed, and a few students were lingering in my classroom and saying their goodbyes.

            “It’s going to be so weird seeing the last two digits of the calendar change,” one student said to another.

            “Can you imagine what it was like going from 1999 to 2000?” the second student remarked.

            Like most elder millennials, I can remember where I was on New Year’s Eve 1999 with surprising clarity, so I couldn’t help piping up.

            “We thought the world was going to end,” I said.

            When they turned to me wearing baffled expressions, I hurried to clarify. I stumbled through an explanation about computer glitches and a song by The Artist Formerly Known as Prince, but it was clear this was their first time hearing about Y2K. In their world, technology was infallible. Every device in their life—from their smartwatches to their cell phones to the electronic assistants like Alexa that sat in their kitchens—updated automatically and flawlessly. It was difficult for them to imagine a world where this wasn’t the case. As for me, I noted that this was a period in history that middle schoolers knew little about and thought it would make for a good book. I jotted the idea down at home and quickly forgot about it.

            Then, in March of 2020, the world turned upside down.

            I can remember my inbox filling with panicked emails from students—they can’t shut down school, can they? I was the adult tasked with reassuring them, but, in truth, between refreshing the homepage of the CDC and wiping down my groceries with a Clorox wipe, I was looking for an adult to reassure me.

            It was then that I turned to writing, determined to flesh out my idea of a middle grade novel with a Y2K setting. There was something so comforting about being the author, about knowing that my protagonist would ultimately make it past all her worries unscathed. It gave me hope that my students and I could weather this storm, too.

            Since the moment I finished writing it, I’ve believed that Doomsday Dani is a book that adults and kids can read together. While adults can bask in the Y2K nostalgia, kids and adults can learn some important lessons: the importance of verifying online sources and how to cope with hardships like bullying and divorce. I believe, too, that readers will finish the novel feeling a certain degree of hope. Like Dani, we are tough enough to endure uncertain times and we can look forward to better days ahead.


Be sure to keep up with Carissa at her author site, and pre-order a copy of Doomsday Dani here.