Vivian Versus the Apocalypse
September 5th 2013
Hot Key Books
A chilling vision of a contemporary USA where the sinister Church of America is destroying lives. Our cynical protagonist, seventeen-year-old Vivian Apple, is awaiting the fated 'Rapture' - or rather the lack of it. Her evangelical parents have been in the Church's thrall for too long, and she's looking forward to getting them back. Except that when Vivian arrives home the day after the supposed 'Rapture', her parents are gone. All that is left are two holes in the ceiling...Viv is determined to carry on as normal, but when she starts to suspect that her parents might still be alive, she realises she must uncover the truth. Joined by Peter, a boy claiming to know the real whereabouts of the Church, and Edie, a heavily pregnant Believer who has been 'left behind', they embark on a road trip across America. Encountering freak weather, roving 'Believer' gangs and a strange teenage group calling themselves the 'New Orphans', Viv soon begins to realise that the Rapture was just the beginning.
Vivian Versus the Apocalypse is a weird book. When I read the first page of the prologue, I thought it was going to be a comedy. I have since read the whole book and realised that my first assumption was very wrong. Really, it's pretty dark. But in a different way to other apocalypse books that I've read, which I can't explain without spoiling it all, but I liked it a lot and if there's a second book (I'm not sure, but judging by the ending and the fact that there were loose threads, I'm guessing that there will be) then I'm very eager to read it and truly know what the actual fuck is going on.
Vivian is a really great character. I loved her a lot. When we first start the book, she's quiet and 'good', though not Church of America pious good, but she gets good grades, behaves well (even if her parents disapprove of the fact that she hasn't joined the Church). Though she is attending a Rapture's Eve party thrown by her friend, Harp, so she's not as goodie-goodie as she was before her parents and her ex-friends joined the Church. She goes through so much in this book, and she changes quite a lot into an angrier, harder version of herself to cope with the changes to her life and the uncertainty of the world. I completely believed everything that she was feeling, even if I didn't always sympathise with it, and that, among other things, really drew me into the story.
I really liked the way that Vivian's relationships with Harp, Peter and Edie were dealt with. Harp and Vivian have only been friends for a year, but because of the circumstances they ended up becoming, like, really close really fast, and I liked getting to see their friendship get stronger. I dunno, you know me and good, well developed friendships that are central to the book. I love 'em. But Peter was also really sweet and the way in which their (Vivian and his) relationship grew was also really sweet. And Edie is probably the nicest person to ever grace the pages of a book, and that can sometimes be grating, but in this instance it was not. She never came across as being some self-sacrificing, martyr type as sometimes these types of characters can. She just really cares about people. Also, I think it was integral to have a character like her, as she is also a Believer, to show that not all Believers are bad people. Every one reacts to a situation differently.
The most fascinating part for me, I think, was the actual Church of America itself. As I said before, at first it sort of seemed like a sort of satire of apocalpyses and that sort of thing, but it's actually really serious and pretty scary. The things that these people, the Believers, will do to get on the 'second boat' to Heaven are scary. These are desperate people, and desperate people are sadder and more frightening than (almost) any alien, angel, vampire, faerie whatever. Well, just people, really. After you read this book, you'll probably see what I mean. There was one thing in particular sort of around the end that was just really horrible. And it's not scary and in creepy scary. It's just scary as in unsettling, y'know? I don't know. It was just really good.
Vivian Versus the Apocalypse was a surprise for me because I wasn't really expecting a load from it, I was expecting to be as emotionally involved or drawn in by this book as I was, and I am so excited about whatever Katie Coyle has to throw at us next.
(edit: I just realised, I forgot to mention ROAD TRIP. It's like a contemporary conspiracy road trip apocalypse book. That's how I'm going to sum it up.)