This Side of SalvationThis Side of Salvation by Jeri Smith-Ready
Published by Simon Pulse

From the publisher:

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 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…

This is another book I learned about through another blogger, but this time it was Michelle who raved about This Side of Salvation. It peaked my interest because books about different kinds of faith almost always appeal to me. Apparently the author also wrote a paranormal series? I’m not super into fantasy but she’s an excellent writer and now I’m interested to see what else she’s got out there. Anyway, let’s get to the book.

I was drawn into this novel immediately. Smith-Ready does this really great thing where she alternates telling the story between now (right after the parents disappeared) and then (starting from about a year before the disappearance). This keeps the energy of the novel up, as David and his sister are frantically trying to figure out what happened to his parents, while at the same time constructing the back story and helping the reader get to know these characters and their motivations. I liked this a lot because I was kept VERY invested in what was going on, in both time periods. I do tend to like when authors do that, though, so I might be a little biased.

The characters in this novel are great. David carries a lot of pain in his heart because of the death of his brother, but he doesn’t quite know how to express it, as his parents have taken their grief to a whole different level and aren’t really interested in dealing with David’s. I liked seeing the brother-sister dynamics between David and his sister, Mara, because they actually liked each other a lot and got along well, despite the fact that they were two very different teenagers. And when their parents went missing, they were truly there for one another, they put their heads together and came up with a plan, instead of fighting or arguing.

I liked David’s girlfriend, Bailey, and I particularly liked that Smith-Ready wasn’t afraid to write a girl with more sexual experience than her boyfriend. This is treated SO well in this book, there is no shame or negativity at ALL attached to the fact that David is a virgin and Bailey is not – it just IS. It’s so, so easy for books to take sex, especially when teens are involved, to this good girl/slut dichotomy, and the author stayed so far away from that, which was fantastic to see.

While the truth about what happened to David’s parents is fairly predictable, that’s really not the point. This Side of Salvation is more about the relationships between these people, about the potential reconciliation of this family, and about how everyone has to grieve – and recover from grief – in their own way. The ending was pretty perfect and I loved where Smith-Ready took these characters by the time the book was over.

Highly recommended! I’m glad I gave myself the opportunity to read this new-to-me author.