This Side of Salvation by Jeri Smith-Ready
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: April 1, 2014
Rating: 4 stars
Source: eARC from Edelweiss
Summary (from Goodreads):
Everyone mourns differently. When his older brother was killed, David got angry. As in, fist-meets-someone-else’s-face furious. But his parents? They got religious. David’s still figuring out his relationship with a higher power, but there’s one thing he does know for sure: The closer he gets to new-girl Bailey, the better, brighter, happier, more he feels.
Then his parents start cutting all their worldly ties in to prepare for the Rush, the divine moment when the faithful will be whisked off to Heaven…and they want David to do the same. David’s torn. There’s a big difference between living in the moment and giving up his best friend, varsity baseball, and Bailey—especially Bailey—in hope of salvation.
But when he comes home late from prom, and late for the Rush, to find that his parents have vanished, David is in more trouble than he ever could have imagined...
What I Liked:
Before I begin my review, I want to mention something about the religion. I saw on Goodreads that a lot of other reviewers started by saying something about their religious beliefs (or lack thereof). I don't think it's important to mention my religious beliefs, but I will say that this book does involve religion. That being said, I don't think there is a religious THEME, necessarily. But religious beliefs are crucial in this book. Do you see the difference? This isn't necessarily a religious YA novel. It's a YA novel that involves religious content. The story matters more than the actual religion, even though the religion makes the story. Basically, don't let it bother you (if religion would be something to bother you).
So. After David's brother John was killed (quite terribly, I might add), David's parents turn to religion - specifically, a woman who claims that the Rapture (actually, the "Rush") is coming soon, and that the "rushing" families must prepare themselves, because the time is coming. Sounds familiar, right? There have been many cults like this, when a perhaps claims that the Rapture is coming, so sell all your worldly belongings and come follow the person! Oh, and give them all your money.
David himself is a Christian, and believes in the Bible. But, he thinks the Rush is a bit ridiculous. He is with his prom date (at prom) when the Rush happens, on May 11th at 3 a.m. (I think I got that right!). When he and his sister come home (she wasn't his prom date, don't worry), they find their parents gone, with their pajamas in the bed - as if their parents' bodies simply vanished out of their clothes.
I found this story very interesting, to be honest. I've read a thousand and one stories about Rapture claims and cults and so-called prophets, even all that mess with May 20th and December 20th in 2012 or whatever. I'm going to keep my beliefs out of this review (or try), but I've always believed that those cults were (and are) bogus, and are led by people who just want your money.
That's how David feels, and Mara (his sister). And his girlfriend, Bailey. And his best friend Kane. And everyone. David doesn't believe in the Rush, but he agreed to give up everything - baseball, Math Cave (home-school group something), Bailey, Kane - but only if his parents would get help, if the Rush didn't happen. Crazy, right? And David actually followed through with his part of the deal.
This book is split into alternating points in the story. It's told completely in David's perspective (first person, at that), but every other chapter alternates between the present time, and sometime in the past, from when John first died, to when the parents first heard of Sophie Visser and the Rush, right up until the present. I absolutely LOVE that Jeri Smith-Ready did this - and the way she constructed the two parts of the story was excellent. Usually, I hate the jumping back and forth between time (it just gets annoying and confusing after a while), but I think it really worked well in this story. Especially since the things being revealed from the past really matched up with David's thoughts as well as things happening in the present. I don't know how to explain that... trust me, it's really great.
The romance in this story is simple and beautiful - I really like David and Bailey together. From the start, we know that they are the couple of the story. BUT, the flipping back and forth between the present and the past shows us how their relationship started and grew. I really like this, because it's a different way of showing readers a developing relationship. We already knew it happened, and we knew key things about the relationship from the very beginning of the book, but it's so sweet to see things progress. This is an instance in which the flipping between present and past really works.
I enjoyed reading from David's perspective. He isn't quite the typical teenage boy - he's definitely a lot more religious than the vast majority of teenagers in general, he's home-schooled, but he's also a dedicated athlete (and now I think I'm obsessed with baseball players all over again... thanks, Katie McGarry and Jeri Smith-Ready!). David's personality is definitely an agreeable one, as was Mara's, Bailey's, and Kane's. I wouldn't have minded reading this book from any of their perspectives - but David's was the pertinent.
The plot of this book is a bit slow, but in a good way. We get parts of the present, we get parts of the past. Not much time passes in the present, but YEARS are shown from the past. The climax of the book is obvious, but there are a few twists at the end. Overall, the plot is really solid, and the pacing is good. I'm glad this book is a standalone - it ended really well (not necessarily GOOD or BAD, but WELL).
What I Did Not Like:
Off the top of my head, I think the only things I might not have liked were the slow-ish plot, but it didn't bother me too much. I didn't read this book in one sitting - which usually means that I hit a boring or not-so-interesting part, and had to take a break, but eh, it happens.
Overall, I'm really pleased with this book. I wasn't sure if I would like it, but I did!
Would I Recommend It:
This book probably isn't for everyone, I can say that now. However, I think that anyone open-minded enough to read it will at least like it! Look past the religion, and you've got a really great and intriguing story! I mean, come on, don't you want to know if David's parents were really caught up in the Rapture (excuse me, I mean, the Rush)? Read it!
4 stars. I can successfully say that I have enjoyed all of Jeri Smith-Ready's published, full-length novels! And I'll definitely be reading what she has in store for us in the future.
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