15
Aug
19

“The apocalypse began at Starbucks. Where else did you expect the end of the world to start?” CBR11 Review 36.

download#CBR11bingo – #cannonballersays

Elena Mendoza is a totally normal high school student. She has a best friend named Fadil, an ex named Javi, a job at the local Starbucks, and a crush on the mysterious and beautiful Freddie.

Oh, and also, Elena was born without her mother ever having had sex, leading to the EXTREMELY clever nickname “Mary” at school. And she hears voices from inanimate objects that tell her what to do all the time.

One day, while Elena is busy at Starbucks, the lovely Freddie is sitting outside. When Elena shyly approaches, a random boy named David runs up, pulls out a gun, and shoots Freddie. The Starbucks mermaid logo tells Elena that she has the power to heal Freddie and save her life. Not really knowing how or why or even what she’s doing, Elena runs over and puts her hands on Freddie, saving her life. MEANWHILE, a huge shining light appears overhead and raptures David up into the sky.

That’s a lot for the first chapter.

Turns out that Elena’s mysterious voices have a lot to say: She has been given the power to heal and should start using it, ASAP. If she doesn’t listen to the voices, the world will end, so she better get to it.

Not a lot of explanation, and Elena struggles with deciding what to do. Heal people and save humanity, that seems easy enough…but she can’t accept that every time she performs a “miracle” it causes other people to disappear, leaving their families and friends without answers.

Every time she puts her hands on someone to heal them, more and more people disappear into the light. She helps a cat with a hurt leg, she helps her neighbor with her bad back, she helps a little girl with leukemia and a little boy with CF, and suddenly thousands of people around the world are missing.

And not only that, but Elena needs to deal with some regular teen crap, too. Fadil has a new girlfriend, Javi wants her back, she’s confused about her crush on Freddie, and her stepfather is a massive tool.

Elena and her friends work to figure out what the right choice is. Saving people because she can, even if it hurts others, or simply sitting back and letting the world end. She struggles to figure out who deserves her help, but quickly realizes that it isn’t so clear.

“Everyone matters, Elena.”
“But don’t some people matter more than others?” I asked. “I mean, if we’re talking about saving humanity, doesn’t it make sense to save the best and brightest of us?”
Freddie’s laughter had faded. “So you’re saying it’s better to save a world-famous physicist than say, a modest merchant who was a partner in a bed feathers company.”
“That’s a really odd comparison, but yeah.”
“Except no,” Freddie said. “That merchant and his wife would go on to birth and raise Albert Einstein.” She paused dramatically. “Hermann and Pauline Einstein might not have seemed like anyone special at the time, but their son changed how we look at the universe.”
“That’s one example.”
“Here’s another. Who should you save? A genius mathematician admitted to Harvard at sixteen or a single mom living on welfare?”
“This is a trick question.”
“Are you allergic to answering questions, or what?”
“The mathematician,” I said.
“Ted Kaczynski. Otherwise known as the Unabomber. And that single mom would go on to write Harry Potter.”

I love how Hutchinson blends the outrageous – a My Little Pony telling Elena what to do OR ELSE – with the mundane, with a blend of angst and humor. We learn so much about this group of characters (my favorite tidbit, which wasn’t necessary to the plot but was so beautifully handled, was Fadil wondering if he is asexual), and we want everything to be OK for them.

Except for Sean. He was a prick and deserved the worst.

A few summers ago, while totally judging a book by its cover, I picked up Hutchinson’s We Are The Ants. I really enjoyed his original style and his ability to portray teenagers as actual human beings. I made a mental note to keep an eye out for more of his books…but there are so many writers I am keeping an eye out for, that I just forgot. Until Cosbrarian’s review from a few weeks ago, where she raved about Hutchinson’s new book, and now I promise not to forget again.

 


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