You know, there are two things I don't choose to read very frequently: novels with a teenage girl as the main character, and novels about the end of the world. This book is both, and I am so grateful to have had it recommended to me. Published first in the UK, this is Katie Coyle's debut, award-winning novel (with a sequel coming down the pike).
It begins with Vivian and her friend Harp on Rapture's Eve, the night when all the Believers of The Church of America have been prophesied by Pastor Beaton Frick to be taken away to paradise. Vivian is a smart, level-headed girl with a touch of teenage insecurity, but also the depth and careful thoughtfulness of a much older woman. Harp Janda is the party-girl/snarky-bitch-that-you-can't-help-but-adore who makes the perfect contrast to Vivian, and is also the funniest, laugh-out-loud teenage character I have encountered since Ron Weasley.
Circumstances take Vivian and Harp across the country on a roadtrip (along with Peter, a handsome young man with long fingers who is much more than your typical heartthrob) that is at times daunting and scary, but also fun and exploratory, even in the midst of hard times.
We're all tired of the term 'coming-of-age novel,' but in many ways, that's what this story is, but with such bigger ideas surrounding it. It is also brightly satirical, and preaches more truth by way of humor than most books in the same category ever dare to approach. Speaking of category, this is a young adult novel—a term I'm learning more and more means absolutely nothing, and I mean that in the best way—but is rich with strong ideas and stark insights about who we are as people and what it means to have faith. Sure, maybe the marketing people are pointing it at a younger crowd, but there is much to glean here for readers of any age.
There are the highly-emotional thought-processes one might expect from a teenage narrator—including the insecurities that revolve around the crush Vivian has on Peter—yet these are endearing, not cloying. Also, I found Edie's brief story in the foodcourt to be heartbreaking and beautifully told—you'll know what I mean when you get there.
This is a story that could have had a very run-of-the-mill, predictable ending and still been a decent book. However, the final forty pages or so had several surprises that left me honestly stunned at how brilliantly the book finished up; the reader receives the perfect narrative payoff.
Vivian was a smart, entertaining, and thoughtful book, with more literary quality than probably any other novel with the word 'Apocalypse' in its title. Stop all your Katniss-chanting and root for a new badass: Vivian Apple.
It will be released in the US next year as Vivian Apple at the End of the World, but you can (and should) buy it now over here, or even preorder the sequel, Vivian Versus America, that comes out this September. The author is @krcoyle on Twitter.