This Side of Salvation by Jeri Smith-Ready
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…
*Thank you to Simon Pulse for the review copy!
First things first–I want you guys to know that this review will be coming from the perspective of a religious person, a believer, at that. I don’t know if you’d have different thoughts on this one if you’re from a different religion or don’t have one.
Honestly, when I went into the novel, I thought that it’d be about a non-believer who went against his parents’ beliefs. Boy, was I wrong. David believes in God, but he doesn’t believe in the Rush/Rapture. He didn’t let his parents (or his non-believer sister) influence what he believed in, and I really liked that about him. Okay, David definitely wasn’t the best character out there, but he was a really believable one. He made mistakes, grieved, fell in love, supported his friends–he really acted like a teen, in my opinion.
“It’s one thing to compete with another girl. But I can’t compete with God.” –Bailey (83% in the eARC)
A big part of the novel was the romance. I expected that from the synopsis, but after reading most of the “now” chapters (there are alternating “then” and “now” chapters), I was expecting more religion and family, less romance. Still, I thought it was okay. There weren’t much feels, but I did swoon a little every now and then. The relationship between David and Bailey had development and was slightly realistic, considering they dated for months before dropping the “L” word.
But David didn’t just focus on Bailey. He also had his best friend (Kane), who never left his side. David was also very supportive of Kane when he came out. He didn’t let his parents disgrace Kane for his sexuality and still hung out with him, not giving a damn about what other people might think.
“When God closes a door, He opens a can of tear gas.” — 7% in the eARC
Let’s talk a bit about the religious aspect of the novel, which I did enjoy and was able to relate to. In the novel, it was explained (and shown) that his older brother John had died in the military. It was a sad death that led to his parents’ current belief in God. I think this is what happened to our family as well. When my grandfather passed away years ago, we just turned very religious. Every person has a different person to believe, so I liked how the novel kind of showed that.
It also showed the problems of being a believer. Sometimes, what they teach in Church isn’t a realistic thing to believe in, right? Or sometimes, there are certain things that just seem highly unlikely. There are days when you questioned your beliefs. I think that was my favorite aspect of the novel–how realistic the religious aspect was.
The novel started out a bit weakly and slowly, but things start picking up towards the middle. Maybe I only thought that it was slow because the writing was a little bit plain? I read her other book, Shade, and didn’t really have anything against her writing there, though. Back to this novel. The twist was definitely surprising for me and I honestly didn’t see it coming.
Overall, it was an enjoyable read, although a few times I felt like hitting someone or falling asleep. I would recommend it to the more patient readers who are interested in family, friendship, romance and religion. As well as finding your own strengths and beliefs.