“This is running away. This is some punk rock New Orphans shit. This is not like any Vivian Apple I have ever been before. But this is Vivian Apple at the end of the world.”
Vivian Apple at the End of the World by Katie Coyle isn’t going to be out until January 6th, but I was lucky enough to borrow the UK version – Vivian Versus the Apocalypse – from Cathy Day and listen. Listen. I’m going to have some trouble doing this review without just full-on fangirl squeeing because I loved it so much.
First, let me tell you a little of what it’s about. Vivian Apple is living in a United States not entirely unlike our own, though there are even more natural disasters and mass shootings. There’s also a thing called the Church of America, which celebrates capitalism and says that women and gays are destroying the country, but it’s okay, because the Rapture is coming.
Only a lot of people believe that.
Like, a lot.
Vivian’s parents are Believers, and she’s watched as more and more of her classmates drop out of school to be taught by the Church of America. The President is a Believer. And it’s been weird, but survivable, and Vivian always thought that if she could just make it through to after the Rapture, when everyone would see that they’d been wrong, things would go back to normal. Her parents would go back to normal.
Except the Rapture comes and about five thousand people disappear inexplicably – including Vivian’s parents, who leave everything they own, a couple holes in the ceiling, and their daughter.
Only five thousand people disappear, but tens of thousands are left behind, and more Believers are being made every day, and they’re angry. They’re angry they weren’t taken, they’re angry they didn’t Believe before, and they’re looking to take it out on sinners like Vivian and her wild best friend, Harp.
So they get out of Pittsburgh with a boy they’ve just met, and they start out on a road trip to find the truth about the end of the world.
And it’s awesome. The only reason this book took me a couple weeks to read was because school kept interrupting, like it will, but yesterday I got the chance to just sit and read and that’s what I did. I stayed up and read the last couple hundred pages, and then did that thing that totally everyone else does, right, where you finish a really good back and close it and hold it close while you sort of roll around on your bed and make happy squealing noises?
Totally not just a thing I do.
The writing is great, the humor is completely my sense of humor, the world building around the Church of America’s takeover of the US is both funny and sinister and a little too plausible, but what really got me is the characters.
Vivian is a good kid. She gets good grades. She doesn’t really fight with her parents, she doesn’t get in trouble, she’s an easy, good kid, and she’s fine being that kid for a long time, but then the Rapture happens and suddenly being who she’s always been makes her feel trapped, stifled. She needs to be what Harp has always told her to be: The hero of her own story.
One of my favorite parts of this, in fact, is that in the beginning, Vivian makes a plea to the universe. “Dear Universe, make me the hero of my own story.” The universe doesn’t grant that wish for her, which is good, because if it had, Vivian wouldn’t have been quite so wonderful. Vivian is not a reactionary character. Vivian is a girl who, once she reaches that breaking point where she can’t be meek anymore, breaks out and forges her own path. She makes herself the hero of her own story, and I am completely in love with her.
I’m in love with Harpreet Janda, too, who is, in many ways, Vivian’s opposite. She’s never been the good kid. She’s been the wild child, the one who dresses on the edge of school codes or in flagrant violation of them, who doesn’t have time for authority, who has a temper and isn’t interested in being meek or obedient, and who is unendingly loyal to the people she loves.
Their friendship, by the way, also one of my favorite parts. Sometimes, even in otherwise very good YA books, the romance starts and the friendship gets left behind. It fizzles out. It becomes less important. That doesn’t happen here. Their friendship has a couple of bumps, but it doesn’t end or falter. It doesn’t get replaced by the romance. It thrives alongside it. And Harp doesn’t push Vivian to be stronger only to get jealous and mean when Vivian steps up. She’s proud. They protect and support each other.
I’m completely in love with Harp, too.
I’m also completely in love with Peter, the boy who comes with them on their road trip, and yes, Vivian’s romantic interest. He’s a mysterious boy they don’t know much about, but, refreshingly, he’s not mysterious and brooding. He’s funny. He’s kind and generous. He has secrets, but he is trustworthy, he is true. He isn’t there to rescue Vivian or to make all the decisions for her or to make her believe that she’s the most beautiful person he’s ever seen. He isn’t a romantic interest that disrupts the story. Peter, Vivian, and Harp work together as a team, and though they never say “Vivian’s the leader”, you still see Peter and Harp defer to her and trust her.
Basically, the friendship and relationship dynamics in this book are amazing. They aren’t constantly sniping at each other and belittling each other. They’re complicated, because they’re all different people with different sets of beliefs who are all pretty freaked out by this end of the world thing, but they also all care about each other and they’re all good people and good friends to each other.
This book is just beautiful, on levels, and you should be reading it.
(I’d also like to remind you to GO ENTER to win a BOOKMARK SIGNED BY STEPHANIE DIAZ and to check out my post about her and her debut novel, EXTRACTION)