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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Vivian Apple At the End of the World

by Katie Coyle

Religious/Secular Content : Yes; both. 
Adult Content : Yes; references
Mature Topics : Yes
Strong/Inappropriate Language : Yes; extreme
Magic/Witchcraft : No
Disrespect/Rebellion : Yes
Drug/Alcohol Use : Yes (underage as well as adult)
Violence/Abuse : Yes
Educational Value : -
Positive/Negative Message : Much more negative than positive; it is tricky

About the book (from Google):
Seventeen-year-old Vivian Apple never believed in the evangelical Church of America, unlike her recently devout parents. But when Vivian returns home the night after the supposed "Rapture," all that’s left of her parents are two holes in the roof. Suddenly, she doesn't know who or what to believe. With her best friend Harp and a mysterious ally, Peter, Vivian embarks on a desperate cross-country roadtrip through a paranoid and panic-stricken America to find answers. Because at the end of the world, Vivian Apple isn't looking for a savior. She's looking for the truth.

I was actually quite shocked with this book, which is offered freely through Sync2016 to those over 13 years old. Admittedly I downloaded the audio book because of the mention of the Rapture although I have not personally read any books on this topic before.

The second reason I downloaded it was simply because it was offered free to teens. I wanted to see what kind of books were being offered to get kids to read (or listen in this case). I will say again: I was shocked by this book. But it really should come as no surprise that it is put out there for teens to read. It twists religion and presents it as kooky and hair-brained. It presents religion as a ploy for money and power by those who are higher in the structure of religion.

The religious aspect of this book is twisted. The basis of the religion is a mix of Christianity and other religions, especially those that have strict adherent requirements. There are bits of Mormonism, Charles Masonism, Jehovah Witnessism, David Koreshism, Megachurchism, Agnosticism, Pantheism, Joel Osteenism, Joyce Meyersism... etc. (yes I'm sure I made up words there). But at the bottom of it is the theme that salvation is only through a particular organized religion and through one's adherence to works. Both of these are completely against true Christianity. One's membership will not save them. One's works will not save them.

In this one, the church is started by Beaton Frick, the Church of America, and it is terrible. The founder, Frick, was visited by Jesus (in a powder blue convertible that had the ability to travel through space and time). I imagine this is what those who are opposed to organized religion think of organized religion: fakely sweet disposition, strict adherence to the requirements, extremely judgmental, and downright vicious. Ah, yes, and its members extremely disillusioned.

"'For God saw that Americans were industrious and made money in His name, and He saw it was good'...It's one of the many parts of the Book of Frick that made you wonder whether or not Frick was just straight up on shrooms when he was writing it."

The book's start really is steeped in the secular, with the underage drinking right at the start (Alcohol Use). Here also we are subjected to the first of many instances of inappropriate language, cuss words from teens. It is not simply "s..t" or "d..n" but the more extreme f-word. There is way too much of taking G-d's name in vain. Also, there is much reference, and acceptance of gays. But also I think it is to point to the emphasis of the religious focus on these groups.

Adult Content is more referenced in the sense of taking 'scriptures' (from the Book of Frick) to detail the abhorrent actions of sinners (gays, lesbians, girls or women who appear to be promiscuous). Of course, these are fake, made up verses but they are similar to the actual Bible verses that talk about these things. In regard to the gays, two teens are a couple and there is some talk of their relationship in the sense of how much they care for each other.

There are also many references to inappropriate relationships of teens. One character, Edie, who I believe is just barely 18/19, was essentially seduced by a member of the Church of America- although she married the man before becoming pregnant- who leaves her when she is 5 months pregnant.

There are Mature Topics through the entire book. Crime, death, rioting, etc. Shortly after it is discovered that there were 'believers' who disappeared, there was rioting and looting. But there are also 'believers' who were not raptured, which causes some problems. Those left behind, but who people thought should have been raptured, begin to carry out vicious attacks on non-believers. Spray painting houses with "Sin" is only a small bit of it. Another time a family is burnt alive in their home because the daughter is viewed as 'loose' by 'believers'. There is an instance where one of the main characters' brothers, who was one mentioned above as a gay couple, is killed by the non-raptured believers. There is more death and murder towards the end as well.

This can of course fall under the Violence/Abuse: the rioting and such. There are instances where many people yell at each other using foul language.

Also, along with this is Disrespect/Rebellion that is prevalent in the book. The main characters are teenagers who are now in a world where many of their parents have been 'raptured'. There are many who are organizing themselves together to make the world continue on, although it is predicted that the End of the World is coming. There are other groups that are bent on destruction- both 'believers' and non-believers.

Educational Value- unless you consider reading through this with a group to find fallacies presented to argue and debunk; or to discuss the different feelings of people in extreme situations- I can't really say it has a positive value.

Which goes onto does this have Positive/Negative Message- yes it does. It is both positive and negative. It is positive in the sense that those who are left behind, 'believers' or non-believers, are striving to keep going. The main character, Vivian Apple, who has always been good by just about everyone's standards but she's been too complacent and don't-rock-the-boat type personality, has to come out of herself, to stretch herself; she has to fight. That is the positive. These people (I will say that the non-believers are painted in a much better light than the 'believers') are trying to work together for what appears to be something good.

The Negative however, is much more prevalent, is that those who believe in religion (not just this fake, made up farce of Frick, but really the actual institution of religion is what is meant here) are not well. Mentally not well. For teens reading this, especially those who do not have a solid foundation of what they believe, will come to believe this: Religion is for those who are mentally unwell. It is not for those who are smart and 'with it'.

The bottom line of this book (imo) is that it is based on the author's disillusionments with religion, and her desire to bring this to the teens of today. But to do so there needs to be a plot worth following. I must say though that the plot is choppy and rather lacking in feeling and depth quite often. The characters (with the exception of Vivian's 'friend' Harp) do not have much to them. I was unimpressed with this book as a means of getting teens to read more (or listen in this case) as it just perpetuates confusion and distrust of authority and truth.

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Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Phillipians 4:8