Friday, February 27, 2015

No Parking at the End Times by Bryan Bliss

No Parking at the End Times****

Abigail’s parents have made mistake after mistake, and now they've lost everything. She’s left to decide: Does she still believe in them? Or is it time to believe in herself? Fans of Sara Zarr, David Levithan, and Rainbow Rowell will connect with this moving debut.

Abigail doesn't know how her dad found Brother John. Maybe it was the billboards. Or the radio. What she does know is that he never should have made that first donation. Or the next, or the next. Her parents shouldn't have sold their house. Or packed Abigail and her twin brother, Aaron, into their old van to drive across the country to San Francisco, to be there with Brother John for the "end of the world." Because of course the end didn't come. And now they're living in their van. And Aaron’s disappearing to who-knows-where every night. Their family is falling apart. All Abigail wants is to hold them together, to get them back to the place where things were right. But maybe it’s too big a task for one teenage girl. Bryan Bliss’s thoughtful, literary debut novel is about losing everything—and about what you will do for the people you love.


Even as an adult it is sometimes hard to admit the failings of our parents.  And if it’s hard for an adult, imagine how difficult it is for a young teen that is 100% dependent on their parents and who should be able to trust that their parents will nurture and care for them.  This is the reason that Abigail is so bewildered with her situation.  Because after her parents have sold everything to help Brother John spread his message about the End of Times and then traveled cross country to witness said event (which, of course, never happened) Abigail can’t help but wonder if her parents have failed her and her twin brother, Aaron.  

As the reader, the obvious answer to Abigail’s question is a resounding YES.  Her parents have given away everything.  Betting on the fact that the end has come and there is no reason to worry about anything else.  Now, they are living in their van and depending on the generosity of churches and shelters to feed them until God has decided the end is here.  Their neglect is reflected in Aaron’s behavior – he’s disappearing from their van every night and they don’t ever notice he’s gone.   It’s also reflected in Abigail’s internal struggle. 

Slowly, Abigail realizes that they haven’t just lost the physical things.  She and Aaron have also lost their parents.  And if they no longer have their parents, what will she do in order to survive her current situation?  This is such an overwhelming circumstance for anyone to be in, let alone a 16-year-old.  And getting the help she needs isn’t easy when the two adults you should be able to trust the most are no longer emotionally available. 

I knew what this was about going in and I knew I was taking a chance.  For me, personally, anything related to religion and/or faith has the distinct possibility of making me twitchy as I flashback to my religious upbringing as a child/teen.   But this book was remarkably thought out.  What I appreciated most is Bliss’ depth of understanding.  His obvious empathy and ability to put himself in both Abigail and Aaron’s shoes.  This wasn’t a book that tried to either encourage or denounce faith/religion.  Instead, it is a book about parental failure and one girl's struggle to reconcile that failure with her desire to live and do what’s right.

No Parking at the End Times is a very thoughtful book and an excellent addition to the YA contemporary world.  It opens up a lot of questions for discussion and it is one that I will be adding to my bookshelf for not only myself but for my kids as well. 


No comments:

Post a Comment