Bryan Bliss’s debut novel opens after a predicted rapture fails to happen (which, refreshingly, setsNo Parking at the End Times apart from apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic premises so popular in young adult fiction today). Since 16-year-old Abigail’s family sold their belongings and moved across the country in anticipation of the end times, they are effectively homeless on the streets of San Francisco. Abigail is torn between relying on the judgement of her parents—who still trust the guidance of Brother John, the preacher whose prophecies came to nothing—or following her twin brother’s call to strike out on their own in order to survive.
Being let down by a doomsday cult may not be a common coming-of-age scenario. However, feelings of powerlessness against the decisions of parents and other adults in authority is a universal experience in youth. And when these adults are religious leaders, disappointment can deepen into spiritual disillusionment. So readers of all ages will likely see parts of their own lives echoed in Abigail’s journey of “disconnected” faith and confusion (to use her words: “the inescapable feeling that I can’t control a single moment of what’s happening to all of us.”)
As Bliss explores the tenuous ties of family loyalty and the hard work of staying hopeful when life’s securities fall away, he wisely makes Abigail a highly reliable narrator. Her authentically restless voice is filled with questions as well as expressions of love for her family—even for her parents, despite their mistakes. It is painful for her to lose the easy certainties of childhood, but in her time of lonely crisis she is led to seek community in places she might otherwise have overlooked. She also gains confidence in her own instincts—particularly about Brother John, who her own parents seem to consider beyond reproach.
The dialogue in No Parking is impressively strong—pointed, with believable bursts of humor and sarcasm; Bliss is clearly attuned to how teenagers actually talk, which is an essential gift for any young adult writer. This excellent novel will be an especially worthwhile and poignant read for young adults, parents, and anyone who gives guidance to youth. (HarperCollins)
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