Release Date: April 1, 2014
Publisher: Simon Pulse; 384 pages
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 in 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...
So I am not going to lie, I went into this book a bit hesitant. Religion can be a very sensitive topic for some, myself included. But Jeri Smith-Ready is one of my favorite young adult authors. So I really wanted to give this book a chance, and put my own personal beliefs aside and just enjoy the story for what it truly is. This Side of Salvation is a touching and beautiful story filled with tragedy, despair, guilt, and acceptance.
For starters I want to say this book is definitely done in good taste. There is no ridicule of God or of any beliefs. David and his family went through a tragedy, it's very common to turn to God in tough times. And this book makes it known that that is perfectly fine. Everyone grieves in their own ways. But sometimes grief can turn into sorrow and that can lead to destructive behavior.
This Side of Salvation is told from a dual timeline. Now I know that that can be confusing for some, but for me it keeps a story fresh because in a way it's almost like you're reading two books. I've always enjoyed flashbacks because it's a wonderful way for back story, and to show character development and growth. David was such a pleasure to read about. I actually connected with him in ways that I didn't expect to. Let's face it I am an almost 30 year old female, and he's a teenage boy. But I've dealt with a death in my immediate family at a young age, and I am still dealing with it. Some of his reactions come close to home. Some of his feelings went off like warning signs in my head. I think that's what I took such a long time to read this book. It's not that I didn't enjoy it. In fact, it was the opposite. I really wanted to savor it because I related to David so much.
Not everything about this is heavy though. I wouldn't want to scare anyone away that thinks this book might be too depressing. There is a beautiful love story in it as well. Jeri captures first love so beautifully and with such a sense of realness. Also there is a true friendship between David and his best friend Kane. It's always nice to have even just one person who you can count on no matter what. Plus the side story of David playing baseball definitely shows that some baseball research was done. It's not just thrown in that he's a pitcher. You may not realize it, but sometimes showing a characters hobbies can give you a depth into a character's mind. Because it's not a direct part of the main plot, it shows a different side of them.
But the nit and gritty of this is family. We all are raised to listen to our parents. As children we learn from our mothers and fathers. But This Side of Salvation makes you wonder what you should do when your parents lose their way. Do you grow up too soon and take responsibility? Or do you follow your parents even when you are sure what they are doing is wrong? It's a very tough decision.
Kudos to Jeri for taking such a sensitive topic and doing it with good taste. Even if you aren't religious I feel like you can take a lot away from this story. This is the type of contemporary novel that I want to read. One that takes real situations and shed them in a different light. This could have easily been turned comical because lets face it a lot of people laughed when the rapture was predicted by Harold Camping. But this shows the outcome of what happens when those who truly believe in God have their faith manipulated. And the circumstances around that. We see things on television and often are quick to judge without knowing all the details. So thanks to Jeri for taking a chance and showing us the other side.