This Side of Salvation by Jeri Smith-Ready
Expected Publication: 1 April 2014 by Simon Pulse
Pages: 384 (hardcover)
Genre/s: YA, Contemporary
Source: Publisher for review
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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...
Religion in books is a difficult subject, and something I usually try and avoid. However, in This Side of Salvation it's used as a plot device that works well to drive the plot without shoving a whole bunch of ideals in your face. Add in a sweet romance and a close brother-sister relationship and a load of grief, and This Side of Salvation ticks a whole lot of boxes.
David and Mara's parents have always been religious, but when their older brother John is killed in tragic circumstances, they begin to become more and more involved in a radical religious movement, which focuses on the Rush - the more 'modern' version of the Rapture. David's father especially embraces religion as a lifestyle, most notably by speaking in bible quotations all the time.
This Side of Salvation is told in 'then' and 'now' alternating chapters, which works fairly well for the plot - as it begins with the disappearance of David's parents, rather than starting from the beginning and climaxing later in the story, its definitely an attention-holder.
My favourite thing about This Side of Salvation is the relationship between Mara and David - despite the fact that they have different beliefs and respond to the change in their parents differently, they actually become closer, especially once their parents disappear.
Whilst I enjoyed the romance between David and Bailey, at times it felt like it was a little 'thrown in for good measure' - I had much more invested in the sibling relationship, and even David's relationship with his best friend than in the actual romance itself. However, as characters David and Bailey had good chemistry and complimented each other pretty well.
What really stands out for me in This Side of Salvation is the depth of the grief felt by David's family - it's almost palpable in places and I could understand why his parents chose to cling to their beliefs - because they just didn't know how to deal with the death of their son.
Incredibly readable, with a fabulous sibling dynamic and an intimate study of how grief impacts people in different ways, it was a good read and I'm glad I picked it up.