Vivian Apple at the End of the World (Vivian Apple, book one)
By Katie Coyle
Expected publication January 6, 2015 by HMH Books for Young Readers
In Vivian's world, the Church of America rules all. The Believers, which includes her parents, power society and await the Rapture. And then, unbelievably, on the day of the predicted Rapture, thousands of Believers actually disappear - including Vivian's parents. What does it mean? Is the apocalypse really right around the corner? Or can something else explain the disappearance of all those people?
This book was on my radar for a long time. I read a lot of post-apocalyptic sort of stuff, but I almost never read anything that deals with religion. I was intrigued by this one from the first I heard of it and was happy to see it on NetGalley.
From the start, I thought Coyle did a great job showing readers Vivian's version of America. There were a few paragraphs that felt a little too explain-y to feel natural, but overall, I thought Coyle showed us the different parts of the new world as necessary to the flow of the story. I loved that Coyle started this story with the supposed Rapture - and the fact of people actually disappearing. It's not something I've seen very often in mainstream fiction (all that comes to mind for me is Tom Perrotta's The Leftovers), and I found it very fascinating.
To that end, I thought Coyle also did an excellent job with Vivian. Her reactions to this strange world she finds herself in seem genuine and believable. I'm an adult and I have a hard time imagining what I would do in such a situation, so I completely understood the moments when Vivian feels like it might be easier to just give up. When her grandparents come for her, I found it very believable that she would crave the life of a teenager again, leaving the adults to worry about how to make this new version of the world work. But I also found her desire to find out the truth very believable. Though I think the motivation behind her cross-country road trip is a bit flimsy, I can understand her need to grasp onto something that might suggest the Rapture is not what it seems. I liked Harp's character as well - and I appreciated the honesty of the relationship between the two girls, particularly towards the end of the story. I liked Peter well enough also, though I found the relationship between Vivian and Peter a bit too convenient for my tastes. Perhaps my favorite character was Edie, and I wish she had played a bigger role in the story.
That being said, there are some weaknesses. The lack of a global connection makes the believability of the story as a whole weaker. There is no mention of the world outside the United States, which has converted to this extreme religion on a massive scale - something that would not go unnoticed by the rest of the world. So where are they? While it may be believable that a teenager like Vivian would not be watching the news or have any particular sense of global awareness, it made it more difficult for me to fully believe.
Additionally, the ending was a whole mess of hard to swallow. I don't want to spoil anything, but the truth behind the Rapture just fell completely flat for me - yes, I could buy it in part, but the full explanation was a bit too messy. Vivian's family situation also gets all kinds of crazy at the end and it felt like Coyle just crammed a bit too much in to really work.
This is the first book in a series, apparently. I'll likely check out book two (which appears to be scheduled for a September 2015 release), but with a bit more hesitancy than I picked up this first one.
Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via NetGalley.