Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Take 5: 5 Reasons I Love THIS SIDE OF SALVATION by Jeri Smith-Ready

Back Cover Description: 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 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…

TSoS is told in alternating timelines: there is the countdown until the Rush (the Rapture event) and then the investigation afterwards to find David’s parents.  We see how the family has come to this one moment in time and how they are managing to deal with it afterwards. I ended up really loving some things about this book and I am here to tell you why.

1. You Gotta Have Faith

TSoS has some really positive faith discussions happening: David finds faith and is depicted praying; He has a relationships with Bailey whodoes not share his faith, but they are each really respectful of the other; And David’s faith is also contrasted with his parent’s involvement in the end times cult. Throughout it all there is lots of interesting discussion about issues of faith that is all around just very respectful. At one point David’s friend tells him, “You are a good Christian, but a horrible fundamentalist” (paraphrased). It is not often that we get such deep and often times affirming discussions about faith in YA.

2. Let’s Talk About Sex Baby

If I was going to write my sex/consent positive list today, this book would go right to the top of the class. David is a virgin and although he isn’t sure he wants to wait until marriage to have sex, he knows that he is not ready yet. Bailey, his girlfriend, is experienced but waiting patiently because that’s what you do when one of you aren’t ready yet. There is no pressure, no guilt, no manipulation – just waiting. I love that Bailey is the experienced one and that David is asking to wait. Then there is a great scene where David and Kane, his best friend, go to buy condoms and it is funny as they try to decipher what it all means.

3. Awesome Best Friends are Awesome

Although David is now homeschooled, he remains best friends with his childhood friend Kane. Kane eventually comes out as gay, which David is very accepting of. David’s very conservative parents are not so much. In fact, there is this horrific birthday dinner scene where David’s parents start to discuss their feelings with Kane and David handles it very well. Then later, when David’s parents come up missing, Kane helps his friend try and find out what is happening. I really enjoyed the depiction of this friendship.

4. Sisters are Doing it For Themselves

TSoS also depicts a very complex sibling relationship between David and his sister, Mara. At times close, the two are being pulled in different directions by their differing beliefs and individual grief. They particularly disagree on how to approach their parent’s new status as end time cult members with David choosing to make an agreement with his parents and Mara choosing just to ignore. In the end, the two are brought together as they work to discover what exactly happened to their parents on the day the Rush was supposed to happen. I thought this was a compelling and realistic look at siblings.

5. Everyone Handles Grief Differently

Although this book is many things, it is ultimately a story of grief. All of this is happening as this family tries to deal with the loss of the older brother and oldest son. Each family member is grieving in their own way and the world has told them it is time to move on from their grief, but they can’t seem to find a way to carry on with this big gaping hole in their lives. As a reader you know early on that David’s brother has died, but the how of it all is a mystery. For David, there is a sense of meaningless of it all and guilt – when you find out what happened, you begin to understand. I thought this was a really beautiful look at grief and how it can grip you.

I highly recommend this book and enjoyed reading it. I particularly loved the way it discussed issues of faith, presenting a wide variety of view points and giving you lots of think about. This Side of Salvation was released on April 1st from Simon Pulse. ISBN: 9781442439481.