Written by: Katie Coyle
Published By: HMH Books for Young Readers; Originally published 9/5/13 by Hot Key Books in the U.K.
Publication Date: 1/6/15
Review Copy: ARC from ALA Convention 2014
In Short: Good girl Vivian Apple, who has never been a religious believer, goes on a road trip to figure out the truth after her parents appear to have disappeared through their roof on the day of a predicted “rapture.”
Opinion: Really enjoyed this one – wish the sequel were available now.
Brief Summary: Vivian Apple, 17, has always been a well-behaved kid, although she and her parents have had a strained relationship for the past year. The reason? Her parents, along with hundreds of thousands of other Americans, have become devoutly religious followers of the Church of America. The leader of the Church, Beaton Frick, predicted a rapture event and the apocalypse, and on the eve of that event, Vivian attends a party thrown by her rebellious best friend Harp to affirm that she believes that this is all hooey-gooey. Vivian and Harp only bonded in the past year over their non-believing status, since almost everyone else in the community is under the spell. The next morning, Vivian goes home and finds no parents and two holes in the ceiling above their bed. They were apparently raptured, along with thousands of other Americans. Now Vivian, who had some moments of doubt creeping in at the party, doesn't know what to believe. After a day and night of chaos, Vivian is enormously relieved when the grandparents she barely knows take her to live in New York City, but after a few weeks, she begins to question everything: what really happened, who her parents really were, and who she really is. She steals her grandparents’ car, returns to Harp in Pittsburgh, and the two of them, along with a boy named Peter who has some inside knowledge of the church, set off to California on a hunch that not everything is what it seems.
Thoughts: I’m not including this book in the World YA section of the blog, even though it was originally published in the U.K., because the author is American and it’s set in America, but after reading it, I can see why it was published there first. This book takes on religion and belief head-on, and I love that about it. Vivian’s thoughts about belief change throughout the book, and she learns, after some missteps, that she should not judge people just for having some kind of belief any more than they should judge her for not having it. I loved that the book was not afraid to ask some difficult questions (why this religion over others, for example) and didn’t shy away from difficult answers. Vivian, for me, was a great character, as a relatively normal girl who recognizes her inner strength in extraordinary circumstances. And I was a sucker for her relationship with Peter. I already miss him and it's been less than 24 hours. The only small problems I had were that the scale of the disaster at times felt outsized: if there were only a few thousand who disappeared, that’s a nightmare and inexplicable, but there are seven billion people in the world. However, I reminded myself that the book is Vivian’s story, and her world is dominated by this disaster. I also felt, at times, that I didn’t totally believe her parents’ characters, although I did like the complexity of the mother. And last, while for the most part the book was fairly nuanced on this issue, occasionally I was frustrated with the suggestions that being “good” and being “boring” are the same thing. There are many definitions of “good,” of course, and the book touches on that, but a well-behaved, kind, and studious human being is not necessarily a boring one, nor is someone who rebels necessarily terribly interesting. Overall, though, I breezed through this and am very much looking forward to the sequel.