A chilling vision of a contemporary USA where the sinister Church of America is destroying lives. Our cynical protagonist, seventeen-year-old Vivian Apple, is awaiting the fated 'Rapture' - or rather the lack of it. Her evangelical parents have been in the Church's thrall for too long, and she's looking forward to getting them back. Except that when Vivian arrives home the day after the supposed 'Rapture', her parents are gone. All that is left are two holes in the ceiling...
Viv is determined to carry on as normal, but when she starts to suspect that her parents might still be alive, she realises she must uncover the truth. Joined by Peter, a boy claiming to know the real whereabouts of the Church, and Edie, a heavily pregnant Believer who has been 'left behind', they embark on a road trip across America. Encountering freak weather, roving 'Believer' gangs and a strange teenage group calling themselves the 'New Orphans', Viv soon begins to realise that the Rapture was just the beginning.
The Church of America has been established for a few years now and the predicted apocalypse looms ever closer. For the Believers, that means ascending into Heaven and their rightful place. For everyone else, it means getting on with life and waiting for it to pass over. But the unthinkable happened and people are Left Behind with plenty of unanswerable questions. And not just religious ones, but also more personal ones. Especially in Vivian's case, who cannot comprehend how her parents chose religion over her. Those Left Behind have six months to figure things out before the prophesied End Of The World.
The story starts on Rapture Eve and all these moral questions on religion and society and individuality are tackled throughout the novel as Vivian and her best friend Harp tries to survive in a post-apocalyptic world that neither of them thought was possible. I really felt for Viv and Harp as they tried making the best of a bad situation. And they do get some answers but in most cases, they just find more questions. Which, as a reader, is very frustrating because I want to know!
It really is a road trip novel, as Viv drags Harp with her across the country to where they think they might find some answers: in California, where Beaton Frick, the Church of America's Messiah, lives. On the way, they meet Peter, a young man on the same quest but with a big secret, and Edie, a girl they knew from school once but disappeared and now find her pregnant and abandoned. They also come across the New Orphans, a group of teens that have found themselves orphaned, as the name would suggest, by Raptured parents. Vivian hopes that they hold some answers, or at least something worthwhile to do before the world ends. Yeah, unfortunately that didn't happen. Figures.
I found this novel completely enthralling but it did leave me hanging a bit. For all its questions it answered, there were just as many not, which is kind of annoying. But I think it did serve its purpose, at least for me, of analysing the social effects of religion and Capitalism. Many comments in this new "religion" made me unbelievably angry but really only because they were presented in a new way to make the reader think about our own. And that's why I loved this book: because it was engaging and made me reflect on our society while entertaining me with a scarily realistic tale.
Published 5th September 2013 by Hot Key Books. Thank you to the publisher for my copy in exchange for an honest review.