Sometimes I like reading books whose subject matter I know will get on my nerves. Vivian Apple at the End of the World (Katie Coyle) was one such book. It’s a fictional take on corporate conspiracies, the apocalypse, and Christian fundamentalist cults. In Coyle’s vision of the end of the world, a charismatic preacher named Beaton Frick starts a cult called the Church of America, and like many false prophets before him, begins to proclaim the impending apocalypse. We meet our 17-year-old protagonist, Vivian Apple, on the eve of a “pre-Rapture” party, after which the Rapture actually does happen and her parents appear to have vanished, leaving only holes in the ceiling.
What follows afterward is a long road trip during which Vivian, accompanied by her crush Peter and her best friend Harpreet (Harp), attempts to find out what really happened to her parents because she is absolutely unwilling to believe that they were literally taken into heaven.
I was bothered by the book’s portrayal of Christians and the religious right, and I was even more bothered that Vivian was as narrow-minded in her lack of belief as she believed the Christians to be, up until the moment when her very wise high school teacher speaks the best line in the book: “We are all people before we are groups.” Even after that, Vivian does retain some of her prejudice, but after what happens to her in the story, you really can’t hold it against her too long. (Plus, I highly suspect that this book will have a sequel, so there’s room for more character development.)
Despite being slightly bothered by its subject matter, I enjoyed the book — the premise isn’t something you read about often, and I can almost see it becoming somewhat of a trend in the future. Hopefully, there will be a move away from post-apocalyptic stories and a move toward “as the apocalypse is happening/getting closer” stories.