Vivian Apple … by Katie Coyle | Estelle Reviews

Vivian Apple at the End of the World by Katie CoyleVivian Apple at the End of the World by Katie Coyle ( web | tweet )
Published January 6, 2015 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Target audience: Young adult
Pages: 272
Keywords: family secrets, cult, road trip, best friendship
Format read: ARC from Publisher. (Thanks!)

Summary: When Viv discovers her parents have disappeared in the Rapture, she sets off on a road trip with her best friend and a boy she just met to figure out the truth about the evangelical Church of America.

It’s not every day I pick up a book about the upcoming apocalypse, but a starred review in Publishers Weekly made me so curious and I am mighty glad I gave this book a whirl.

A possible Rapture has been threatened for awhile and no one in Vivian’s town really believes it’s going to happen until it does. After a party, Viv goes home to find two holes in her ceiling and her two parents missing. It seems all over the country loved ones have disappeared, Believers of the evangelical Church of America, and the end of the world is scheduled to arrive soon rather than later.

Before their disappearance, Vivian was continually harassed by her parents to receive her baptism and join them as Believers. They joined later in their life, and once they did, their relationship with Viv changed along with it. Vivian held out, determined to act like the best kid she could even if she wouldn’t officially become a Believer. Soon most of her close friends have converted and abandoned her. Although, the one positive, is meeting Harp, dealing with her own uber-evangelical parents, and they bond instantly.

Thank [insert name of higher power here] because the friendship between Viv and Harp is one of my favorite things about this book. In fact, I believe it’s the foundation of this story. Even though they are both so different — Harp is the more outgoing one, and Viv always following her lead — they compliment each other even in the most difficult of times. They give each other space, they pat each other on the back, and more than anything, they accept each other for who they are — warts and all. If you are facing the end of the world, I can’t imagine spending it with someone better than that.

Despite a false move on Viv’s part after the initial rapture, a road trip is organized when they realize certain strange clues are leading them to California and perhaps, some answers. Joining in is Peter, a boy Viv unsuccessfully tried to nab at a party the night before the Rapture and an “information guy” with connections to the church. Don’t worry. He’s trustworthy and an acceptable object of Viv’s affection. More than being a possible love interest, Peter proves to be a solid and understanding friend. In other words, perfect for a quest like this one.

As you can imagine, the road trip puts them in contact with many surprising (and dangerous) people and places but the most effective piece of the puzzle for me was the loneliness and not only because they had no idea who was alive and who was dead but because they were teenagers navigating this post-Rapture world alone. Viv had a lot of trouble dealing with this, and I didn’t blame her. Even though evidence was saying the adults had disappeared and many had gone off their rockers, she still believed in the authority of an adult and wanted to put her trust in them despite her history of getting burned. This parallel to growing up in general was a great one.

Despite the short page count, Coyle’s lush writing and intricate details made this book feel like an epic adventure — in a way that made me so anxious to get down to the bottom of the Church of America (clever usage of social media and consumerism that reminded me a lot of the underrated Bumped series by Megan McCafferty) and find out if Viv and her friends had the power to change their fates. The story continues in September 2015, and I’m so looking forward to it.

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book review of Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdoch

Magan: Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

book review of Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert MurdochDairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock (facebook | website)
Publication Date: May 22, 2006
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Pages: 275
Target Audience: Young Adult
Keywords: girl playing on male football team, milk farm, sports and training
Format Read: Audiobook purchased from Audible.com

Narrated by: Natalie Moore

Summary: D.J. isn’t the smartest girl there ever was, but one thing she certainly knows is her way around her family’s farm. D.J. was a star basketball player until her family hit a few speed bumps and she was forced to quit the team to help out more. Her father’s friend, Jimmy Ott, recruits D.J. to train his lackluster quarterback, Brian, which leads to a surprising turn of events when D.J. decides to try out for her school’s football team.

Thanks to the fantastic Lori at Pure Imagination, Dairy Queen was on my radar. It’s been out in the wonderful world of published books for a few years (a 2006 release) so when I saw her audiobook review, I knew that a) I HAD to read the book, and b) I needed to use one of my audible credits to listen to it as an audiobook. I’m very new to the world of listening to books. In fact, this is only my second to finish. But before I begin chatting about the audio aspect of Dairy Queen, let’s get into the nitty gritty details of D.J.’s life.

Things you should know about D.J.:

  • Her family owns a milk farm. She single-handedly keeps it running and this has forced her to quit her high school basketball team and be pretty distanced from “normal” high school activities.
  • Her brothers are college athletes — athleticism runs in their genes. However, her family’s kind of at an impasse, feuding over something silly and mundane.
  • D.J. isn’t the smartest cookie; she failed her Sophomore English class because she couldn’t possibly keep up with the farm work and school.
  • D.J. attends Red Bend’s high school. Their arch-rival is Holly.

One day D.J. is approached by Jimmy Ott, the Holly football coach and her father’s best friend, about training Brian Nelson. Jimmy suggests that maybe Brian can do some conditioning and farm work so that he can get in better shape, build his character, and simultaneously lend a hand to a family who desperately needs the help. Brian and D.J. are practically complete opposites. He’s popular and well-known. D.J. has a bit of a reputation as a hick. Brian’s got the big headed attitude of an awesome athlete, but he’ll never become more than the backup quarterback if he doesn’t train more. D.J. has raw, natural talent, but the opportunity for her to participate in sports has been taken away from her.

There’s this fantastic dynamic between Brian and D.J. as they try to figure out how two rivals can work together. And you know, of course, there’s this amazing chemistry that flares up but both of them want to ignore. BUT Dairy Queen offers more than just a tense relationship. There’s so much happening with D.J.’s family; they don’t really speak or communicate well. Why is that? And why is D.J’s best friend, Amber, having such a difficult time with D.J. training Brian? Amber has always been a say-what’s-on-her-mind kind of girl, but the things she’s blabbing to D.J. are becoming hurtful.

So there you have it: a rocky friendship with a questionable best friend, a family that needs a little fixin’, and an awesome dose of two very unlikely characters spending tons of time together.

As for the audio, it was spot on. I loved the narrator, Natalie Moore. She really got into D.J.’s character and I think I probably laughed out loud more than I would have if I were speed reading through the pages. Moore captured my husband’s attention, too, as I asked to listen to Dairy Queen while we were driving to Florida. I had to pause the book and explain the characters, setting, and plot so he could follow along with me. (He was asking a million questions.) We both really enjoyed the story — not too girly for him and not too heavy on the football/farm setting for me.

One bonus? There are two more books following Dairy Queen. I didn’t realize there was more when I finished listening, but I’ve just added The Off Season and Front and Center to my audible shopping cart because I’m so anxious for more D.J. and Brian. (And the rest of the gang, too.)

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