I received this galley in consideration for an honest review.by Katie Coyle
Series: Vivian Apple #1
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on January 6, 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Post-Apocalyptic
Seventeen-year-old Vivian Apple never believed in the evangelical Church of America, unlike her recently devout parents. But when Vivian returns home the night after the supposed "Rapture," all that’s left of her parents are two holes in the roof. Suddenly, she doesn't know who or what to believe. With her best friend Harp and a mysterious ally, Peter, Vivian embarks on a desperate cross-country roadtrip through a paranoid and panic-stricken America to find answers. Because at the end of the world, Vivan Apple isn't looking for a savior. She's looking for the truth.
When I was at the Texas Library Association convention last year, I asked the rep at the HMH booth which book she was most excited about and she handed me Vivian Apple. I thought it was going to be another YA contemporary about a teen questioning her faith, and perhaps there was an element of that here, but it was also a lot more. Vivian Apple is a good girl. She is smart, well behaved, and not at all interested in joining her parents as members of the Evangelical Church of America. This new religion that almost everyone follows, lead by a man named Frick, seemed like one that worships all the worst of what we sometimes see in the US; consumerism, sexism, and small-minded thinking, with product tie-ins that would make any marketing expert weep with joy. With things like “The Parable of the Starbucks” and religious branded food items, this religion could have been a part of Idiocracy, with its over the top leader and ultra violent return to a set of values set forth in the religion’s own bible. It would have been easy for this book to turn into a commentary about organized religion, but I really didn’t get that feeling from it at all. If anything, it was a story about how we shouldn’t assume that people are good, bad, or unchangeable, no matter what they believe. We should see individuals, not groups. Vivian Apple At The End Of The World is very much a story about resilience. Vivian really felt as if she lost her parents before they disappeared and as she learns more and more about who they were, I think she felt even more separated from them. Her faith grew, but it was faith in herself and in the people she came to think of as family, and while that sounds trite, it didn’t read that way.
The star of the show, in many ways, was Vivian’s friend, Harp. The snarky sidekick character is nothing new, especially in YA, but somehow Harp becomes more than that and escapes a fate as the comic relief or The Fool. She is as vulnerable and screwed up as everyone else, and the manifestation of her own confusion about everything that happens enhances Vivian’s development, even when Harp does and says things that are hard to understand. Perhaps especially at those times. Peter, their somewhat mysterious new friend provided a voice of reason, and a little romance, although romance was not the focus of this story. Most importantly, though, I really liked Vivian. She was not the girl turned her by suddenly realizing she could kick ass, she was the girl who longed for her family and for normalcy, but was able to find a place within herself that kept her going on the weirdest pseudo-apocalyptic road trip ever. Even in her fiercest moments, she was torn between doing the necessary thing and doing the safe thing. That made her very relatable to me. It was refreshing to see a transformation that really and truly felt like a hard-won, well-earned crash course in growing up. It wasn’t a perfect book, but it is one that has really stayed with me and with the insane twists at the end, I am very glad that it is a part of a series.