by Bryan Bliss
To be published by Greenwillow
on February 24, 2015
Source: Thanks to Greenwillow for an e-ARC
Synopsis from Goodreads: Abigail doesn't know how her dad found Brother John. Maybe it was the billboards. Or the radio. What she does know is that he never should have made that first donation. Or the next, or the next. Her parents shouldn't have sold their house. Or packed Abigail and her twin brother, Aaron, into their old van to drive across the country to San Francisco, to be there with Brother John for the "end of the world." Because of course the end didn't come. And now they're living in their van. And Aaron’s disappearing to who-knows-where every night. Their family is falling apart. All Abigail wants is to hold them together, to get them back to the place where things were right. But maybe it’s too big a task for one teenage girl.My take: As the synopsis indicates, No Parking at the End Times wasn't so much about faith as it was about fraud: Abigail's family is victimized by a con artist preacher, a guy who convinces people the world is coming to an end and that they need to give him all their money. (Though I'm not sure what he'd need it for...)
It's hard not to be sympathetic to the twins' plight, to watch as they descend further into poverty and homelessness. The problem I had was that I didn't understand the parents' blind and misplaced faith in a guy who tells them to make choices that hurt their family. "Sell my house and give all you the money? Sure, no questions asked." Because I'm not a person with a strong religious bent, I needed to understand how and why two seemingly rational adults were so taken in that they'd do something that left their children homeless and hungry. I'm not saying this kind of stuff doesn't happen, but I was hoping the book would delve more in to how it happens and why. Brother John didn't come off as very charismatic to me, so I spent a large part of the story feeling completely annoyed at the parents. Near the end of the story, the twins decide that the adults in charge have lost their minds (finally!) and take matter into their own hands.
by Kathryn Holmes
To be published on February 17, 2015
by Harper Teen
Source: thanks to Harper for an eARC
Synopsis: Ever since the night of the incident with Luke Willis, the preacher’s son, sophomore Hallelujah Calhoun has been silent. When the rumors swirled around school, she was silent. When her parents grounded her, she was silent. When her friends abandoned her … silent. Now, six months later, on a youth group retreat in the Smoky Mountains, Hallie still can’t find a voice to answer the taunting. Shame and embarrassment haunt her, while Luke keeps coming up with new ways to humiliate her. Not even meeting Rachel, an outgoing newcomer who isn’t aware of her past, can pull Hallie out of her shell. Being on the defensive for so long has left her raw, and she doesn’t know who to trust. On a group hike, the incessant bullying pushes Hallie to her limit. When Hallie, Rachel, and Hallie’s former friend Jonah get separated from the rest of the group, the situation quickly turns dire. Stranded in the wilderness, the three have no choice but to band together. With past betrayals and harrowing obstacles in their way, Hallie fears they’ll never reach safety. Could speaking up about the night that changed everything close the distance between being lost and found? Or has she traveled too far to come back?
My take: Distance Between Lost and Found took some time to get going for me. I was never bored, but the story builds deliberately, and I find third person present a weird narrative point of view to read. But by the halfway point, when things really got grim for this trio of teens who run off from a church hiking trip and get lost in the wilderness, I settled into the story and ended up enjoying it a lot.
As the story opens, Hallelujah is hiding something, something that has made her an outcast among the popular kids in her church group and harmed her relationship with her friend Jonah. When Hallie runs off from the group, Jonah and another girl follow and before long, they're lost in the Smoky Mountains with no cell phones and limited food. The book is coy about Hallie's secret until about halfway through, and when she finally starts talking about what happened to her and how it has affected her, things really gets going. This is also the point in the story where the characters begin to wonder if they'll make it out of the mountains alive. The metaphor of "I once was lost but now am found" could have come off heavy handed, but didn't. I really liked the way that the whole survival-in-the-wilderness story paralleled the way that each of the main characters recent experiences with things that had tested their faith. And I loved that when the going got tough, Hallie didn't just throw up her hands and ask God to save her. Her religious faith gave her the strength to help save herself and her friends, as well as stand up for herself in other situations. This book seemed quiet at first, but then built to a lot of suspense and a moving ending.
How do you feel about books with religious themes? Are you planning to try either of these?