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This Side of Salvation Paperback – March 17, 2015
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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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
*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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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
This Side of Salvation by Jeri Smith-Ready
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: April 1, 2014
Rating: 4 stars
Source: Copy 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.