Armageddon Summer

Authors: Jane Yolen & Bruce Coville

The members of the charismatic Reverend Beelson’s congregations are convinced that he’s right: the world’s ending on July 27, 2000. And based on that belief, they’re packing up their families and heading out to Mount Weeupcut, the only safe place to be for the chosen few, according to the Reverend. In the wake of their respective families’ dissolution, Jed and Marina find themselves dragged along by their remaining parents. Marina wants to believe, if only because her mother believes and she so desperately needs for her mother to be right. Jed doesn’t give a care–he’s just there to protect his dad who’s been a bit batty since Jed’s mom left. When these two meet up on the mountain, they find something in each other they can relate to, someone they can really talk to without feeling judged for their unbelief. Which is good, because if Reverend Beelson’s right, they’re going to be stuck with each other for a long time.

I normally shy away from books like this; they’re just a bit too angsty and mercurial for my taste. But a Jane Yolen/Bruce Coville combo was something I just couldn’t pass up. Armageddon Summer was much better than I expected, even knowing and respecting the authors as I do. I guess the best way to put it is to say that it was tasteful and non-judgmental. Even though they were largely writing about folks who were clearly nuts, they also showed the good sides of those people. Furthermore, they depicted with painful honesty the challenges of faith and uncertainty, especially in circumstances such as when everyone around you is fully convinced or when your parents clearly believe and want you to. I think the struggle of what to do when your beliefs and your parents don’t mesh is a key element in this story–one on which I truly appreciate the authors’ thoughts. The writing itself is, as expected, flawless, engrossing, thoughtful, and dynamic. I really enjoyed the alternating voices between Marina and Jed, as well as the interlacing of snippets from radio broadcasts, sermons, and conversations for flavor. I don’t think Armageddon Summer is for everyone. Some might find it offensive; others may find the challenges it raises to their own beliefs to be disconcerting. But for the brave and the thinking reader, I think Armageddon Summer is sensitive, thoughtful, poignant, and well worth your time.

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