Tuesday, September 01, 2015

The Few, The Chosen: Vivian Apple Needs a Miracle by Katie Coyle

Peter takes a breath. "First of all, you have to understand that as high-profile as they've made me, they still haven't admitted to me that they faked the Rapture. I don't know where the corporation's hidden the missing Raptured, and I don't know what they have planned for the Apocalypse."

On the morning after the Church of America's proclaimed Rapture, Vivian Apple had found her parents gone, supposedly ascended to Heaven through two holes in their bedroom ceiling. But Vivian is not a Believer in the charismatic Beaton Frick's end-of-time Apocalypse, and she believes that her parents are alive somewhere. She joins her best friend Harp and Peter Ivey, a boy she had met at the Rapture Night party, and head for California. In a skirmish with the Church, Vivian sees the Church elders kill her father. Peter is captured and Vivian fears he is dead.

But Vivian's intuitive disbelief is reinforced when she finds her mother, escaped from the captivity with the other Raptured but still a believer, living with Viv's half-sister Winnie, who connects Vivian and Harp with the anti-Church Resistance movement. Well funded and training to overthrow the Church Corporation, this militia seems the only hope that the hoax can be uncovered and the Church of America discredited. But first Vivian has to get to Peter, now revealed by the Church as the son of one of the founders and a heralded leader of the cult, and find out if he has really become a Believer.

California is a shell of itself, shrinking to dust in drought, with wildfires surrounding the city, with the Believers self-absorbed in their own hopes for the now-promised "Second Boat" Rapture, girls in bonnets and body-concealing couture hawked in constant television ads sponsored by the Church of America, while the rest of the population fights among themselves or tries to find some way out. Into this situation come Vivian and Harp, seventeen-year-old self-appointed Wonder Women, with their determined band of resisters, believing that destroying the leaders of the Church is their only hope to restore sanity to their world. But Vivian voices her lack of conviction that violence is the best answer to violence.

"That's the thing, isn't it? It isn't happening. It's being done. It wasn't a mistake. The Church knew what they were doing. The woman who killed Robbie knew when she pulled the trigger. She might not even have been a Believer." I close my eyes.

"What proof do we have that taking down the Church will change anything? What if it isn't the Church making people act like this?

What if this is just the way people are?"

Following her award-winning first book, Vivian Apple at the End of the World (see my January, 2015, review here) Katie Doyle's second book in the Vivian Apple series, Vivian Apple Needs a Miracle (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015) is commendable for its audacity in taking on the massive issues of mass hysteria, climate change, and the nature of evil in one turbulent series, and for the most part Katie Coyle carries it off. The characters are well-drawn, compelling, and believable teenagers trying to assume leadership in a world where there seem to be few responsible adults.

Many teen readers now flock to post-apocalyptic and dystopian novels and films, responding to a societal dis-ease in which actual conspiracy theories, false prophets, self-absorbed leaders, and fanatic death-devoted religions flourish, make Doyle's tumultuous plotline less a suspension of disbelief than it might otherwise seem. To the author's credit, she does not sink to elevating warfare of one kind or another to the ultimate virtue as do some dystopian warrior sagas, keeping Viv and Harp as savvy, full of life, and indomitable heroines who are lifted by their love and loyalty to their band of rational friends. We can only hope that we adults can deal with these very real problems at least as well. Kirkus Reviews says, "... an exceptionally multifaceted plot, easily seguing from snarky social criticism to heart-pounding action to stomach-fluttering romance, creating a breathless whirlwind that keeps the pages flying until the very end."

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