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This Side of Salvation Hardcover – April 1, 2014
"Neverworld Wake" by Marisha Pessl
Read the absorbing new psychological suspense thriller from acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Marisha Pessl. Learn more
From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—An honest portrayal of a family dashed apart by grief and in much need of salvation. David's family is still reeling from his military brother's death three years ago, and all but older sister Mara have embraced God as a way to cope. A former alcoholic, David's dad has abandoned his addiction to the bottle for an all-consuming and unhealthy relationship with religion, talking only through Bible verses and aligning himself with a fundamentalist preacher that promises the Rapture (or Rush) will occur in just a few months. All David wants is to get a baseball college scholarship and possibly lose his virginity to new girl Bailey. Told in alternating Then (leading up the Rush) and Now (after the Rush) chapters, the narrative frankly depicts a teen struggling with finding a balance between religion and his own desires. After a slow start, the momentum quickens as readers learn the mystery behind John's tragic death and the fate of the disappeared parents. Smith-Ready respectfully gives voice to those who question their beliefs, while providing teens a fascinating look into Doomsday cults. The secondary characters are not as well-developed as the protagonist, who finds fault with his church's rejection of his gay best friend and continuously prays to God for guidance. The ending might be too pat for some but will ring true for those rooting for this family's redemption. Give to fans of Melissa C. Walker's Small Town Sinners (Bloomsbury, 2011) or Lara Zielin's Donut Days (Putnam, 2009).—Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal
*Starred Review* David, 16, and his sister, Mara, mourned plenty over the military death of their older brother. Their parents, however, shifted their religiousness to a higher gear, with Dad speaking entirely in Bibleish (biblical quotes) and both parents becoming disciples of a charismatic preacher who predicts the Rapture—or the Rush, as she calls it—will occur on May 11 at 3 a.m. For this smart, well-rounded, and unpredictable tale, Smith-Ready juggles two time lines. The first begins on the morning of the Rush, when David and Mara return late from a party to find that their parents have vanished right on schedule. Assuming that the Rush is a ridiculous notion, has something terrible, such as a dual-suicide, occurred? The second time line brings us up to speed on the past nine years, a slow-motion train wreck during which the siblings are gradually asked to abandon all earthly pursuits. This is a deceptively easy read in the Dana Reinhardt vein, but Smith-Ready intersects both time periods with aplomb, bringing to light issues of belief versus free will, spirit versus body, and family versus self—while never being heavy-handed. It ends up being quite a mystery and a believable one at that. An eye-opening look at the limits, uses, and misuses of faith. Grades 9-12. --Daniel Kraus
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This Side of Salvation is so different from any other books I’ve ever read and I don’t mean it just because the theme of religion is part of the book but because it really made me think about a lot of things, it’s complex and deep; truly special! Me, I was raised a catholic but I was not offended at any moment that I read this book, one is definitely free to believe whatever they want but I don’t think that should translate into being intolerant to other’s beliefs so anyway, if you’re worried about that, you shouldn’t be.
After the tragic death of his older brother, David’s family was devastated in grief but then religion seem to help them (pretty much his parents) cope and survive, although for him and his sister Mara they haven’t really lived; their parents are very strict about how things are supposed to go and now they have them getting ready for the Rush, in which only people who are are true believer will be saved. But David is only 16 years old, how can a teenager give up on what’s so important for him: his girlfriend, his friends, baseball… so instead of being home waiting to be Rushed, he and his sister Mara are on a prom party and when they return they discover that his parents have disappeared.
David is an amazing character and is wonderfully written. The whole book is told from his POV and the structure of the book was one of my favorite aspects; the chapters go back and forth in time; we start from the “now” but then it flashes back to years, months or days away from his present. I think this was great and it made the story more dynamic because you start to wonder about events from the past and then you get to know things like the impact of his brother’s death on his family, how he knew his girlfriend Bailey and how their relationship developed, etcetera. You get the whole background of how life has been for David and for me that only made me care more for him, to say life hasn’t been easy for him would be an understatement and seeing how much his family has suffered, he would like nothing more than for everything to be at least better. Religion has been a comfort for David and he is a believer but that doesn’t mean he accepts everything without questioning or that he doesn’t disagrees with certain things, he keeps an open mind and I quite liked that.
Another great thing in the book is the relationships between the characters; they’re all very real and moving. Like with Bailey I found it pretty cool that despite how different they are they still get along so well. He comes from a religious family and his beliefs are important to him but then you have Bailey whose parents are sort of hippie, and she is a girl who believes in scientific facts, you would definitely think these two can’t be more opposite but neither one tries to change the other opinions, they accept how they are and can even agree to disagree on certain things and move on. Reading about these two was something I completely loved!!
I went through every emotion on this book, I was happy, frustrated, angry, hopeful, sad, it’s an emotional roller aster and I was fully immersed in the story. One might think the plot goes slow or something but it wasn’t like that all, for me I thought it always maintained an aura of mystery and suspense. The characters are not 100% good or bad, there are no extremes here but rather different shades of gray, they make mistakes; they do what they think it’s right, they are and I have to use this word again “real”.
I could go on but I’d just keep babbling about its awesomeness, like how great Jeri is writing from a guy’s POV, how beautiful the story is, so my advice to all of you is to please buy and read this book, there’s no other like it.
Jeri Smith-Ready’s latest book grapples with difficult topics that many of us struggle to understand.
In the end, the story is an eloquent portrayal of love and loss, hope and despair. And healing.
I've been a fan of Smith-Ready for a while now; this is my favorite of her books. Fresh & enjoyable, while making you think.
For starters I want to say this book is definitely done in good taste. There is no ridicule of God or of any beliefs. David and his family went through a tragedy, it's very common to turn to God in tough times. And this book makes it known that that is perfectly fine. Everyone grieves in their own ways. But sometimes grief can turn into sorrow and that can lead to destructive behavior.
This Side of Salvation is told from a dual timeline. Now I know that that can be confusing for some, but for me it keeps a story fresh because in a way it's almost like you're reading two books. I've always enjoyed flashbacks because it's a wonderful way for back story, and to show character development and growth. David was such a pleasure to read about. I actually connected with him in ways that I didn't expect to. Let's face it I am an almost 30 year old female, and he's a teenage boy. But I've dealt with a death in my immediate family at a young age, and I am still dealing with it. Some of his reactions come close to home. Some of his feelings went off like warning signs in my head. I think that's what I took such a long time to read this book. It's not that I didn't enjoy it. In fact, it was the opposite. I really wanted to savor it because I related to David so much.
Not everything about this is heavy though. I wouldn't want to scare anyone away that thinks this book might be too depressing. There is a beautiful love story in it as well. Jeri captures first love so beautifully and with such a sense of realness. Also there is a true friendship between David and his best friend Kane. It's always nice to have even just one person who you can count on no matter what. Plus the side story of David playing baseball definitely shows that some baseball research was done. It's not just thrown in that he's a pitcher. You may not realize it, but sometimes showing a characters hobbies can give you a depth into a character's mind. Because it's not a direct part of the main plot, it shows a different side of them.
But the nit and gritty of this is family. We all are raised to listen to our parents. As children we learn from our mothers and fathers. But This Side of Salvation makes you wonder what you should do when your parents lose their way. Do you grow up too soon and take responsibility? Or do you follow your parents even when you are sure what they are doing is wrong? It's a very tough decision.
Kudos to Jeri for taking such a sensitive topic and doing it with good taste. Even if you aren't religious I feel like you can take a lot away from this story. This is the type of contemporary novel that I want to read. One that takes real situations and shed them in a different light. This could have easily been turned comical because lets face it a lot of people laughed when the rapture was predicted by Harold Camping. But this shows the outcome of what happens when those who truly believe in God have their faith manipulated. And the circumstances around that. We see things on television and often are quick to judge without knowing all the details. So thanks to Jeri for taking a chance and showing us the other side.
Reviewed by Sana @ Step Into Fiction
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This book does contain religious elements, however it is not about whether you believe or not.Read more