An engrossing and thoughtful contemporary tale that tackles faith, friendship, family, anxiety, and the potential apocalypse from Katie Henry, the acclaimed author of Heretics Anonymous. There are many ways the world could end. A fire. A catastrophic flood. A super eruption that spews lakes of lava. Ellis Kimball has made note of all possible scenarios, and she is prepared for each one. What she doesn’t expect is meeting Hannah Marks in her therapist’s waiting room. Hannah calls their meeting fate. After all, Ellis is scared about the end of the world; Hannah knows when it’s going to happen. Despite Ellis’s anxiety—about what others think of her, about what she’s doing wrong, about the safety of her loved ones—the two girls become friends. But time is ticking down, and as Ellis tries to help Hannah decipher the details of her doomsday premonition, their search for answers only raises more questions. When does it happen? Who will believe them? And how do you prepare for the end of the world when it feels like your life is just getting started?
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She feels a little disconnected from her family- her sister who is understanding less, her father who loves her but is not as close as he used to be, and her mother who loves her but is having a hard time understanding her and so lashes out. She also strongly believes in the church and her religion, but she is questioning her sexuality. Altogether, it is a lot to deal with.
When Ellis meets Hannah in the waiting room of her therapist, she is surprised by Hannah's reaction. When Hannah seeks her out and soon reveals that she has visions/dreams of the apocalypse, Ellis's fears are coming true, but she knows how to prepare. As they work together, it becomes even more convoluted and things are not quite what they seem.
What I loved: The representation here is great. Tal, another main character, is bisexual, Ellis is questioning, and Hannah is gay. There is also mental illness in Ellis's anxiety and in the homeless people who appear in the book with undiagnosed mental illnesses. There are some interesting discussions about this that were also handled really well, and Ellis's anxiety is palpable and really well written. The Mormon religion was also thoughtfully handled throughout.
The book really portrays familial relationships well and demonstrates quite a few different families, such as Hannah's with her parents who are mostly absent, Tal, whose parents are divorced and lives with his dad while his mother has a new family in the Mormon church (and he visits her at times), and then, of course, Ellis, who has complicated relationships with her family due to her anxiety disorder. The characters were all very three-dimensional and complex, which makes for an interesting read as Ellis prepares for doomsday with Hannah.
What left me wanting more: While Ellis begins to understand her mother a little better, I would have liked a clarifying discussion so that we could confirm what Ellis believes. Some of the conversations they have are really painful- but ultimately really true as well, and their relationship adds a lot of complexity to the novel that I would have liked more resolution for. I would also have liked a little more at the end to explore Hannah a bit more and how she will move on after this (an epilogue or a few more chapters)- but even as-is, the book is wrapped up pretty well.
Final verdict: Overall, this book is a charming and in-depth character study of Ellis, a young girl with anxiety who is questioning her sexuality and who is also Mormon. With complexity that shines through the plot, friendship and familial relationships come to the forefront of this engaging read.