Tuesday, April 1, 2014

This Side of Salvation by Jeri Smith Ready

This Side of Salvation
Book Summary From The Author

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… 

What Others Are Saying:

“THIS SIDE OF SALVATION is impossible to pigeonhole. It’s a mystery, a love story, a tale of friendship, of prejudice, and of a family overcoming tragedy…Jeri Smith-Ready has her finger on the pulse of American youth.” — Printz Honor winner and NYT Bestseller Elizabeth Wein

“This is a frighteningly realistic story that delicately handles the issues of religion and family—an emotional mystery sure to be popular and perfect for discussion.” — VOYA, **Highlighted (Starred) Review**

“[A] smart, well-rounded, and unpredictable tale...bringing to light issues of belief versus free will, spirit versus body, and family versus self—while never being heavy-handed.” Booklist, **Starred Review**

“This book has some of the best written, strongest, and most satisfying character dynamics that I have read in a long time...There are no extreme moral rights and wrongs in this book. These people just are, and they work, and they make this story beautiful.” — Bibliopunkk


What I Thought:

I first came across Jeri Smith-Ready in early 2012 when I checked out audiobook copy of Shade from the library.  I was immediately sucked into Aura's world.  I requested the audio for Shift before I even finished Shade & then pre-ordered a signed copy of Shine from Jeri's local bookstore.  I signed up right away for "Team Shade/Team Kilt" & have been following Jeri ever since.  Somehow, despite all of my Shade love, I hadn't read any of Jeri's other books.  So, I wasn't sure what to expect out of This Side of Salvation (her first contemporary novel). It turned out to be a unique, thoughtful look at grief, family & forgiveness.

This is, above all else, David's story.  David is a fairly normal 16 year old boy.  His world revolves around pitching a winning baseball game, hanging out with his best friend Kane & gaining the attention of Bailey, the new girl in town.  His life seemed to be coming together perfectly until one day changed everything...the day that his older brother John died.

When John joined the military & left to go overseas, his absence was expected, but the knowledge that he will never return has altered life completely for the Cooper family.  We see the story through David's eyes.  We feel his anger & pain as he scrawls "Why God Why?" on the side of a local church, and we feel his longing & hope as he joins the same church in an effort to find answers to his questions.  While he is searching, his parents think they have found their answers in a radical religious group who believe that God will return to collect his followers on May 11 at 3 a.m. in an event they call "The Rush".  When they ask David to give up everything he knows & loves to prepare for The Rush, he has to choose between his family & his hope for a future.  On the night of The Rush, David & his sister Mara sneak out to go to a party.  Running late, they return home at 3:30 to find their parents gone & clothes lying in the bed as if it had recently been occupied.  Did they miss The Rush?! Did it really happen?!

The chapters alternate timelines between Now, where we follow David & Mara as they work towards unraveling the mystery of their parent's disappearance, and  The Time Leading up to The Rush, where we get a more in-depth look at David along with his family & friendsI felt that this structure allowed us to get to know the characters in a way we never could have in a more traditional narrative.  This story is part coming of age & part mystery with a hint of romance.  The pace is slow & steady, but never boring. Jeri's writing was just as detailed and gripping as I remembered, and she handled the subject of religion & faith with a great deal of respect.  Where I didn't fall head over heels in love with the characters like I did Aura, Zachary & Logan, I did care about David & Mara on every step of their journey searching for answers (both before & after their parents' disappearance).

This Side of Salvation is the type of book that will make you think.  It delves into a subject often overlooked, avoided, or mocked & handles it in a way that appreciates both sides & encourages one to know what they believe & to stand up for it.  While this isn't a light-hearted, easy read, it was definitely one that I enjoyed & would recommend.

***ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.***


Giveaways Galore!

Jeri has two ongoing giveaways to celebrate the release of This Side of Salvation.

Join the Rush swag fest: free EXCLUSIVE swag for everyone who orders TSOS on or before Monday, April 7.

Superfan contest (March 31 – April 9): share the TSOS characters’ “trading cards”  on your social networks to earn points. Biggest Superfan wins the grand prize, but there’s a chance to win a book and a gift card every day you play!

Here's the final day's card, featuring the dream/theme quote from Mr. Ralph:

Cat blogging meets book birthday!

Meet Misha and Twinkle, the real-life inspiration for the cats of This Side of Salvation, on PulseIt, the official site of Jeri's publisher, Simon Pulse.

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