This was given to me by a friend and definitely not something would have sought out on my own. Don’t get me wrong. I like Jane Yolen (though I always wonder when you have a well known author paired up with someone just how much if anything they actually wrote). She usually writes fantasy but this isn’t really fantasy. This could be all too frighteningly real and that was part of my problem.
Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t hate this. I liked it but there were aspects that were hot button issues for me. The story is told in flip flopping point of view chapters (with a few random insertions) from the view point of Jed and Marina. Both are products of broken homes. Jed’s mother had run off with a photographer leaving his dad heartbroken. His big sister was already in college and didn’t put much stock in her brother’s declaration that dad was losing it. Marina’s father grew distant from his large family especially with her mother’s overly overt religious zealotry.
And there is the hot button for me. Religious zealotry, no matter the religion, makes me insane. I can’t stand the intolerance and that is the backbone of this story. Both Jed’s dad and Marina’s mother have turned to Reverend Beelson who has seen Armageddon and knows it’s going to be July 27th, Marinas fourteenth birthday. He is going up on the mountain with 143 followers and wait for the earth to die in fire. The 144 souls on the mountain will be saved ala Noah, and repopulate the Earth. This is the scary part. This has happened. It’s happened recently. The 144 souls is a number that’s been batted around for a long time (and a number that astonishes me that people believe because there surely are more than 144 good souls in this world and most religions preach a loving God so this never worked for me in the real world but okay in this story that’s what we’ve got).
Jed is forced up the mountain by his father, who tearfully leaves Alice, the big sister behind because she refuses to come. Marina and all her brothers are dragged up the mountain by their mother who left their philandering father behind. Neither Jed nor Marina are Believers but Marina wants to be, terrified of her mother’s predictions of what will happen to the ones with greasy souls.
At this point one of four things could have happened in my mind, a) real angels and demons pop up since Yolen does a lot of fantasy (I’ll tell you this didn’t happened) b) Beelson is right and the world dies (which would have infuriated me) c) nothing happens and Beelson loses control d) religious fighting. I won’t tell you which happened.
It started off slow but once we got on the mountain things moved. It was pretty believable. Beelson makes for a good cult leader. Marina’s mother you begin to really hate. She’s the type of Christian who gives them bad names (mainly she’s judgmental, neglectful and cruel) but Jed and Marina’s narratives are very believable and compelling. I did think though that Marina’s brothers were poorly drawn. I can only remember two of them and there were I think four. It’s a quick read and might actually be considered juvenile instead of young adult due to the ages of the main characters. It’s not something I’d normally read but for what it is, it’s good.