Vivian 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
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.