Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Review: This Side of Salvation

This Side of Salvation
Author: Jeri Smith-Ready
Published: April 1, 2014
Hardcover, 384 pages
5 Gold Stars

(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 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...

Smith-Ready blew me away with her Shade series. It was like nothing I've read before and even though the premise could be cliche, it wasn't. She has a way of writing characters and story lines that seem like they could actually happen even though they are very far fetched. This Side of Salvation may seem far fetched to some people, but it was the kind of plot that could actually happen to some families around the world. When David's brother dies in the army, his family takes it all very differently. David gets angry, but his parents find God and become very religious. David has gone to church most of his life, but when his parents start getting involved with a lady who tell them about the Rush, aka the Rapture, they begin severing their lives to prepare to go to Heaven. David questions all of this, still not sure what he believes in or whether the Rush is real, but when he comes home late from a party with his sister and finds his parents vanished, suddenly he doesn't know what to believe.

David is like most people in the world, he knows about this religion, goes to church, learns how to be a good Christian, but still isn't sure if he believes in the higher power. As David tries to figure out what happened to his parents, we flash back to other important parts of his life to help us understand where he's coming from. I loved this past and present tense. In the present, his parents are already gone and him and his sister Mara are on the hunt to find out what happened to their parents. In the past, we see David much happier. He is with his girlfriend Bailey, living the sort of life any teenager would love. We see how David views religion and we see how his parents are dealing with the death of their oldest son. David's father speaks only in scripture, which in on itself is crazy and illogical, but I can see someone doing this as a means of coping. 

The writing is beautiful. Smith-Ready knows exactly what words to use to convey each message and David's view of the world differed so much from his parents. The mystery behind the Rush got to me,  I can see how David could feel like it was impossible. Even though he's pretty sure he believes in God, he still questions everything after his parents disappear, wondering how they could leave him behind. This story made me cry, the grief is palpable and the love for family and friends is heartbreaking. It shows perfectly how a family copes with losing a member. It kept me guessing to the last few chapters, and even then I wasn't sure how it would all end. David's relationships are very realistic. Him and Mara get along, but still have a lot of differences. Him and Bailey are not perfect, and their relationship isn't glorified. They are real teenagers and David thinks about sex... a lot. It's always so different being inside a guy's head as opposed to a girl's. I loved the focus on baseball as well. David loved pitching as a kid, but it slowly disappeared the more religious his parents got. It was the prefect metaphor for his life, and I was very happy when he got back into it. Kane was the perfect side character. He loves David and will do anything to make sure his friend's life.

This book is great if you're not sure how you feel about God, or even if you do know. The mystery aspect was great and the characters were even better. I highly recommend this to anyone looking for a different kind of contemporary about family and struggling with a major loss.  

“Oh yeah, pain. I think it's the same when we lose someone we love. It never stops hurting. But maybe it shouldn't. That pain, after all, is a souvenir of love.” 

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