By Jeri Smith-Ready
Available now from Simon Pulse (Simon & Schuster)
Read my interview with the hero of the WVMP series and my review of Grim
I've been a fan of Jeri Smith-Ready since WICKED GAME, the first book in her WVMP series, came out. It was smart, funny, and an inventive take on vampires. I was quite excited to read THIS SIDE OF SALVATION, her first foray into contemporary fiction.
David was a baseball star with a girlfriend he loved, but he gave it up because of the Rush. He didn't believe in the Rush, but he still prepared for it. Now his parents believed. They believed their priest, Sofia Visser, that they would be taken to heaven that night. David and his sister decided to go to prom. When they came home, their parents were gone and their pajamas left in bed. They still don't believe in the Rush, but they do believe they need to find their parents - especially before the bills are due.
THIS SIDE OF SALVATION moves back and forth in time, showing David and Mara's quest for the truth as well as the past that brought their parents to believe in a cult. David's own journey to a true faith is a contrast to his father's strange denial of reality. There's also a love story, showing how David and Bailey first came together and how they got back together once Bailey forgives him. I liked putting the pieces of the past and present together. Sometimes I'd gotten the entirely wrong impression about what happened in the past based on how characters spoke of it in the present.
I know some readers are reluctant to read books with religious themes. But THIS SIDE OF SALVATION is a true gem. It explores faith and loss in a powerful, nonjudgmental way. I felt that David's faith was moving and true, but didn't think it was alienating. Mercy and love are more important than being right. (There's some very interesting biblical debate and knowledge involving David's long-time best friend Kane, who comes out during the novel's past sections.)
I thoroughly enjoyed THIS SIDE OF SALVATION. Smith-Ready takes on contemporary issues with the same clear, funny writing she brought to urban fantasy. THIS SIDE OF SALVATION also has a hint of mystery that keeps the plot moving along instead of navel gazing. It would make an interesting reading companion to YA classic ARMAGEDDON SUMMER by Jane Yolen and Bruce Coville, which is also about teens whose lives are affected by their parents' belief in an upcoming apocalypse.