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Monday, February 20, 2012

Everything You Need to Survive the Apocalypse by Lucas Klauss

Phillip's sophomore year is off to a rough start. One of his best friends ditches him for a group of douchebags. His track coach singles him out for personalized, torturous training sessions. And his dad decides to clean out all of the emergency supplies from the basement, even though the world could end in disaster at any moment...and even though those supplies are all Phillip has left of his dead mom. Not that he wants to talk about that.But then Phillip meets Rebekah. Not only is she unconventionally hot and smart, but she has seriously great boobs. And she might like him back.
As Phillip gets closer to Rebekah, he tries harder and harder to turn himself into the kind of person he thinks she wants him to be. But the question is, can he become that person? And does he really want to?

 Everything You Need to Survive the Apocalypse , I think, is one of those books that you really either love or hate. If you're interested in more religious themes, like questions of religious identity and faith, this book will be a good read for you. If you aren't interested in such themes and shy away from faith, this book probably won't be a good fit for you. I think what will mostly determine the book's popularity is how many people are interested in such a faith-focused narrative. Just something to keep in mind, if you're deciding whether to read the book or not.

I will say, first, that I am interested in such religious themes and contexts. And I will say that I did enjoy this book. 

Phillip is attempting to get through the school year. He runs cross country with his friends, but his tough relationship with the coach (who he has nicknamed Ferret) and the fact that he and his friends are growing apart makes running tough. He is obsessed with the apocalypse and his family is attempting to recover from his mother's death. Phillip meets a girl named Rebecca and they start a relationship. Rebecca is extremely religious and asks Phillip to join her youth group and participate in other church activities. As he gets more and more engrossed in the religious community, hoping to cultivate his relationship with Rebecca, Phillip must decide if he wants to turn into the person she wants him to be.

The plot was pretty good. It curved and twisted, and the revealing of Phillip's mother's story was carefully layered and made sense. The story was poignant and interesting and it seemed to be going well for a while. But it reached almost a spot of predictability, where everything suddenly seemed to be turning predictable. I guessed the ending about fifty pages before the end, and I wasn't surprised at all by the overall conflict resolution. The religion aspect, the part of the book people always seem to want to know more about, was handled well. Klauss does mention some of the negatives of being an evangelical Christian and following their beliefs (several topics are discussed, including gay marriage and whether someone should go to hell if they don't believe in Christ) but he showed respect to the religion and its followers. So the plot was really going fine for a while, but it became predictable towards the end. The ending was sweet, though, and left open a brighter future, in a happy, open ending. 

The thing that I felt really redeemed the book, and made me push up the rating a few stars, was the characters. Klauss' biggest strength seems to be in his characters. Phillip really developed, turning from an insecure teenager to someone much stronger; Rebecca's relationships (with her father, etc) really improved; Phillip and Ferret's relationship changed; his relationship with his friends changed. This book is really developed around relationships, and how they change and grow. The characters interacted very well and the dialogue sounded like how teenagers speak, which is a pretty good accomplishment. Some of the characters' relationships did end on an unsurprising note, but they had been so well developed I didn't mind; I wanted for them to have their happy endings. I applaud Klauss for writing relationships well; it seems to be one of his strengths as a writer.

Now, onto the writing. I was thinking hard about the writing as I read. In a lot of the critical reviews (think Kirkus et al), they mentioned that the writing was clipped and hard to read. I kept an extra eye out on the writing, looking for any issues. I didn't really find much of any. Sometimes the writing wasclipped, but the majority of the time the writing sounded good. The writing sounded like a teenage boy would, and do teenage boys sometimes think and speak in clipped and fragmented sentences? Yes. So I applaud Klauss for once, again, writing a good story that sounded like a real teenage boy.

This definitly was a strong debut, though if you are disenterested in religious themes it probably is not for you. If you don't mind religious themes and are interested in contemporary, I would add this to your reading lists.I'll look for Klauss' next book. A strong, smart, and fresh debut.

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