Title: This Side of Salvation
Author: Jeri Smith-Ready
Expected publication: April 1st 2014 by Simon Pulse
Source: eARC courtesy of the publisher for an honest review
"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..."
First line: "If this were the last night of my life, I could be at peace with that."
Thoughts: Wow, what a refreshing yet perplexing novel. Initially going in, I had very high expectations. The author's Shade trilogy is one of my favorites, and I know she knows how to write a fantastic novel. I can honestly say I have never read a YA novel that had me questioning family dynamics and life choices so many times in the course of a few pages. THIS SIDE OF SALVATION is Jeri Smith-Ready at her finest. Honestly, I cannot recommend this book enough.
The novel starts off in the now. David is at a party and is about to come home to a very unexpected surprise (and not the good kind). He thought his biggest problem would be trying to sneak his drunk sister and himself back home and hopefully not running into their very strict, religious parents. What he gets is an empty house and his parents clothes laying on the bed, as if their bodies just vanished. Was The Rush real or is this just some stunt his crazy dad is doing to teach him and Mara a lesson?
This is the question that David constantly has to ask himself. The novel jumps back and forth between what is happening in the present and what happened in the "Then" (past). You get to experience through David's eyes how it is growing up with a religious fanatic father who only speaks in bible verses. You also get to witness how things were before and how things could have been if it weren't for this one devastating tragedy. As you can see, David's parents are not the easiest to handle. They have very religious viewpoints that go from being a certain age before you can start dating to not so subtly rejecting David's best friend, Kane, for being gay. I couldn't even imagine living with such narrow-minded people, and the scary truth is, people like this exist. They take religion to a whole different, extreme level. Now, here's the thing...Though I very much disagreed with David's parent's beliefs, I still respected them for it. Not once did I hate them. It's just how they are. That's how well-written this novel is. Even though certain characters don't make sense to you nor do their actions make sense, you never once hate them.
I'm really glad the author decided to write this entire novel through a male perspective. Honestly, it's where she shines (pun intended). She just does such a great job of having him deal with situations and emotions but still keeping him laid back. This is basically reminded me of every single one of my guy friends. I always question how they keep this calm demeanor when everything around them is falling apart. The truth is, they're probably freaking out inside the same way David is/was.
Overall, I have to say that I really hope Jeri Smith-Ready writes more contemporary novels. THIS SIDE OF SALVATION is so different than anything I have ever read, and that is really saying a lot. I cannot wait for other readers out there to experience this journey and to be as amazed as I was. Needless to say, I highly recommend this novel.
“Oh yeah, pain. I think it's the same when we lose someone we love. It never stops hurting. But maybe it shouldn't. That pain, after all, is a souvenir of love."
“One thing I've found that eases the pain," Cody said, 'is to remember that we are all connected, to those we know and those we don't know.”
“Okay, stud, just one more question." She formed an L with her thumb and index finger. 'Why are some people in the audience holding the sign for "loser"?'
It was my turn to laugh at her. 'That's not for loser.' I set down my soda, mirrored her gesture with my hand, then straightened our pinkies to form the sign-language letter. 'The L stands for "love".”