This Side of Salvation
Author: Jeri Smith-Ready
Publish Date: April 1st,2014
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
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 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…
The story opens up with the after party of prom. The party is reported by the cops and David and his sister Mara return home to find that their parents have disappeared. The two believe at first that they have been Rushed and are in heaven upon finding their clothing laid out in bed. But on closer investigation, they realize that there are some other aspects manipulating them and what has happened.
From here the story progresses in a before-and-after format, skipping back to nine years prior to what David refers to as “The Rush”. Starting from here, David tells the story of how his family began to spiral downwards and how his parents came to join a cult. Originally, his family was completely normal. That was, until his older brother, John, died while in the military. His father became a drunkard and David’s family was in turmoil for years. Then, one day, his parents discovered God and changed. No longer did his father drink, but instead he preached, speaking in Bible quotes. His father acted as if he had never had a second son, but only David. It was his own strange way of coping with the death of his firstborn. David’s life was completely changed. His parents were difficult to communicate with and his sister, Mara, ended up completely ignoring them altogether. As his parents change churches and eventually join the cult founded by Sophia Visser, David questions his faith and belief in Sophia as well as God and by now, he will do anything to have his old family back.
At first, I was not too into the book. I, personally am not a religious person at all and because of this I went into the book thinking that it was going to be about they were saved because most books that I have seen dealing with the Rapture were dealt with in this way. And at first, that was what the book seemed to be like as I first began reading it.
I was completely wrong.
The book was told from the point of a view of a Christian that did not believe in the Rapture. While his parents were dedicated to planning for the Rapture, David was more focused on living in the present and for the future that he might have if the Rush did not happen. It used the idea of the Rapture to write a story about a boy that was recovering from his brother’s death and finding himself. This Side of Salvation is not focused on the religious aspect so much as it is on the characters and their growth and this was something that I loved about the book.
David was an amazing protagonist and I absolutely loved his sister, Mara and his best friend, Kane. Their relationships were genuine and part of the best aspects of the book. The relationship between Mara and David was realistic. They called each other names, argued, did all the things that siblings did, and most importantly, had each others backs in the end. David and Kane had the type of best friend relationship that every person deserves to have.
The characters were so realistic. They are well developed and relatable. David acted like a teenage boy. His emotions and thoughts were characteristic of what a boy his age would do. His confusion on his values and beliefs made the book that much better.
The before-and-after format effectively tells the story, and foreshadows multiple scenes in the book. And while the book was slow in the beginning, it quickly picked up as more is revealed about what exactly happened to their parents.
While This Side of Salvation may not appeal to those that believe in the Rush, it’s definitely worth a read for those that don’t.