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This Side of Salvation

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Everyone mourns differently. When his older brother was killed, David got angry. As in, fist-meets-someone-else’s-face furious. But his parents? They got religious. David’s still figuring out his relationship with a higher power, but there’s one thing he does know for sure: The closer he gets to new-girl Bailey, the better, brighter, happier, more he feels.

Then his parents start cutting all their worldly ties to prepare for the Rush, the divine moment when the faithful will be whisked off to Heaven…and they want David to do the same. David’s torn. There’s a big difference between living in the moment and giving up his best friend, varsity baseball, and Bailey—especially Bailey—in hope of salvation.

But when he comes home late from prom, and late for the Rush, to find that his parents have vanished, David is in more trouble than he ever could have imagined...

384 pages, Hardcover

First published April 1, 2014

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About the author

Jeri Smith-Ready

28 books1,603 followers
Jeri Smith-Ready has been writing fiction since the night she had her first double espresso. A steady stream of caffeine has produced twelve published novels for teens and adults since 2001.

Jeri lives in Maryland with her husband and two cats, who often play tag-team "sit in the author's lap and keep her from writing." (The cats, that is, not the husband. Though, actually...)

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 156 reviews
September 20, 2019
This was a very different type of Y.A. book to read. It involves a family whose members are mourning the death of the oldest son. David deals with his grief by acting out destructively and questioning God about why his brother had to die. Mara throws herself into getting ready for college.The parents just seem lost...until they encounter a radical preacher who claims to know the date and time of the “Rapture”. Then they cut themselves off from “worldly” things, constantly quote Scripture (even to telemarketers!), and prepare for the “Second Coming”. The kids tolerate the situation until their parents drop them a huge bomb; David and Mara are also expected to give up everything worldly, including school and college, their friends, and activities like the baseball team.The two become suspicious of the radical preacher, and suspicion turns to panic when the parents mysteriously disappear on the proposed “Rush(Rapture) Night”.
I found myself giggling over much in this book. The Scripture-quoting father speaking “Bibleglish” (as opposed to English) was hilarious when he came up with verses for every occasion; answering the phone, greeting people at the door, teenage dating, etc. Every time he quoted I thought, “This is really funny, unless it’s your own father doing it!”
There were also some real lump-in-the throat moments. The pain that this family is experiencing is pulling them apart; it’s especially obvious in the dad’s case. He can’t even talk about his older son anymore; as David puts it, he has become Davidmysonmyonlyson whenever his father introduces him to people.
This was an eye-opening look at the influence that religious cult leaders can have upon the vulnerable. I would recommend it for Y.A. readers and older, because there are some very mature themes and scenes. I would also suggest adult guidance, because some of the teen choices made had serious consequences.
Memorable Quotes:
Pg. 84-“ My father wasn’t going to answer the phone,since the word “Hello?” never appears in the Bible. Although one time he did reply to a telemarketer, saying,”For many are called, but few are chosen.”
Pg.255-“No one’s kind to their parents.Someday you’ll have kids and they’ll treat you like crap, and your parents will be like ha-ha, it’s your turn. That’s how grandparents are.”
511 reviews210 followers
April 15, 2014
"Ooh, sneaking in math homework. Rebel geeks!"
"Studying like there's a tomorrow," I said with a movie-trailer voice.

I'd like to consider myself secular, but I know I'm not because I only like the festivals and holidays. The fun ones. Maybe I'm straddling the line between atheism and agnosticism, but the bottom line is: I'm not a believer. I don't believe in Gods or gods and although it doesn't mean my faith, or lack thereof, casts shadow or light or whatever-the-fuck on my perspective, I do consider that my views w/r/t This Side of Salvation would differ radically from believers'. I consider it, but I don't know. The point I'm trying to state is that this review, this book should be taken with a grain of salt if you believe what I consider.

This Side of Salvation is a peculiar book in its entirety. The elements have been before seen, dealt with individually, successfully in other novels, but this particular combination I've never come across. Not only that, it's the depiction of teenagers, the voices of characters, that makes it rare, if not unique. It was refreshing. From its simple cover in the air to the minimalistic prose and lack of angst, I am appreciative of every. damn. thing.

A couple of days ago, Ready was an author for me to ignore if recommendations came up because her fantasy works never did anything for me- actually, I remember hating Shade in especial. I'll be on the lookout for her next contemporary novel, however, if one comes.

Despite what it seems like, This Side of Salvation isn't a snarkfest on religion, or about teenage rebellion or horrible parents, or how religion can sometimes fuck up so many lives. Nor is it about the mystery. Faith is a major theme of the story, but it's not the principal one. This is the tale of David: hero-wanna, a believer who just want his parents back on the track, for his family to heal. At the end of the story, it's a coming of age novel, learning to find your own salvation, helping others in their battles, not fighting the demons them. Mostly, he just wants his family back and he's given up everything thing for it.

The relationship dynamics are one of the things that solidified my appreciation for the story. David and his sister, Mara; his best friend, Kane and girlfriend, Bailey, had deep bonds between them that I could feel. Their characters were also fleshed out. Characters that felt like teenagers: not bland or monumentally sarcastic, nor macho nor too mature. They had their lame jokes and fights, things they do I'd rather not, but despite the absence of the Cooper adults, this is thankfully not a case of missing parents syndrome, where all the adults magically disappear.

"So she's a prophet with no profit." Kane smacked the dashboard in glee. "Ha! I love the English language."

(I love this kind of shit. Grown-ups might frown at these lame attempts, but my friends and I spent ages AGES laughing at stupid jokes like this.)

Another thing I like is that nothing hinges on the mystery, or the reveal-about their parents, his brother's death, what happened forty days. Because this is not a mystery. It seems like one, they look for clues, Mara and David go on a hunt for their parents, but they just want their parents back, Even if they haven't been parents for a long while. However, it doesn't seem like their parents could be anywhere within human reach. They appear to have been Rushed.

The story, while moving forward, also tracks back in alternate chapters, telling the story from when it all began, how it all began. The debilitating fascination/obsession of his parents with the end of the world as they know it, while they're cavorted off to salvation by Christ, and further back, when his father started speaking in Biblical terms and when did David find his salvation, or what triggered it all, how long the ramifications of the trigger have been in effect, how adverse. Yet another thing I like is that the book never takes a stance on religion; David is Christian, but the book never condemns him for his belief, or allude that his parents actions were a result of their faith, that the religion is to blame, nor does it ever preach. In fact, it's Bailey, an atheist, who helps restore David's faith when everything's blown to Hawaii for the Cooper family.

However, the author takes a moment or two, via her characters, to remark upon the existing perverted societal structures around religion. Cults and interpretations and how a beautiful thing can be warped by human mistake, or deliberation.

We should pick three random verses and form our own religion. Except instead of the Bible we should use a different book. Like Lord of the Rings. Or Harry Potter.

Little does she know there already are. Fandoms. They be nightmares and exquisite dreams in one neat package, like religion.

A few things here, a few things there that behooves me to mention but whatever. One thing I would like to comment on is the climax, or destination of Mara and David's journey. Reaching there, the story seemed to lose a lot of its substance at once, even the writing seemed a bit flaccid. The last chapters really lost me as an enthusiastic reader. They weren't bad, per se, or badly written; it's just the conclusion I can't wrap my head around. It seemed like a switch had been flipped and everyone(that mattered) had begun to see the light. So obviously I liked it all the more when Another thing I can't begin to comprehend is why would his parents have had him memorize all the

"Your son tore you family in half."
"You both did," Dad says.

This is one of the few times This Side of Salvation truly enraged me. His son did no such fucking thing! Time and again, he only tried to bring them together. The father tore up the family and not only is he not owning up to his actions nor defending his son, he has the nerve to accuse David, even while he isn't. The lack of reaction from David makes me think that even he accepts this, but I see no fucking basis for the assumption.

David's automatic, almost magical, forgiveness for his father frustrated me. It's not without the realm of possibility or acceptability- hell, there's a fucking reason, for it. The whole process of him arriving at the decision is right there for perusing in the book, so it's not really a flaw that I'm discussing here. It's a pet peeve, something personal I can't abide by, that I see oh-so-very often in books. I don't like it because I'm like that as well, when it counts and I hate that.

If all that ain't enough for you, consider this: the author discussed Arcade Fire's Neon Bible in her note, and there's a kindred love of the album in the book. Excuse me, HELL YES!

Review copy provided by the publishers.
Profile Image for Debbie.
295 reviews128 followers
May 14, 2014

2.5 Stars

I'm not a religious person and I highly doubt I will ever become one. I think that this is one of the reasons why cults interest me so much, they explore different kinds of religions, mashing them up and manipulating people to believe complete nonsense and stealing their hope and faith, some of the last things they have to offer. The idea of cults in this story is a lot different from the ones seen in documentaries and that's what first interested me. I was looking for something different and well explained however, This Side of Salvation isn't that novel, it lacks depth and a solid back story but I liked it enough. It also doesn't hurt that the cover is fucking beautiful.

The Rush pretty much takes up the whole story and although I loved reading about it, it makes everything else suck. All of the relationships between David and a family member is floppy and not well done. What makes it all worse is the relationship they all had with John is barely discussed until the very end. There's no story there, there's no emotion, and I felt like he was just shoved into the story to get the book to go in the direction of grief. Moreover, I didn't like the style this book is written in with the past/present tense. Not a fuck was given about the past because all it told me was how the romance between David and Bailey came to be and odd David's family started acting after John's death.

This Side of Salvation has a really great idea. I've only read one other cult like novel and I didn't enjoy it at all. I liked how Smith-Ready went with this and made it as mellow as possible but still keeping the parts after the Rush really interesting. It's not the typical cult where people are completely cut off from the world, there's a few children brides, and some gore/abuse. David, for the most part, is a strong character because he's really flawed yet he tries his hardest to be a good person and readers get to see him grow as a person. I loved how willing he is to give up everything he's worked so hard for to become closer to something he believes in even if it's just for the sake of his parents. The religion is really kept to a minimum throughout This Side of Salvation, I didn't feel overwhelmed by it and I actually learned a few things about it.

Anyway you look at this, it's still disappointing how This Side of Salvation is executed. I mean, I'm glad that it's not the typical cult like stuff and the first chapter is really well done, it's exciting and gritty and had my attention instantly but the story has huge holes in some crucial places like the characters themselves and their relationships. Nonetheless, I would still recommend this, mostly to anyone who's looking for something a bit different to read about and don't mind some boring characters.
Profile Image for Karen.
1,406 reviews108 followers
December 22, 2014
I was so lucky to have been able to read an early version of this book. It’s a beautiful, poignant, uplifting story that makes you think about love, life and loss in a whole new way. You will fall in love with the protagonist, David. And that cover! Eep – it fits the story SO perfectly.

This is very different than anything Jeri has written before. - a male protagonist (yay! because Jeri writes the male POV perfectly IMO) and a stand alone novel that explores a lot of interesting ideas.

Profile Image for Gaby.
226 reviews
August 5, 2016
Wow, what an amazing, intense, deep, unique and awesome book!! Jeri, you did it again *bows*

This Side of Salvation is so different from any other books I’ve ever read and I don’t mean it just because the theme of religion is part of the book but because it really made me think about a lot of things, it’s complex and deep; truly special! Me, I was raised a catholic but I was not offended at any moment that I read this book, one is definitely free to believe whatever they want but I don’t think that should translate into being intolerant to other’s beliefs so anyway, if you’re worried about that, you shouldn’t be.

After the tragic death of his older brother, David’s family was devastated in grief but then religion seem to help them (pretty much his parents) cope and survive, although for him and his sister Mara they haven’t really lived; their parents are very strict about how things are supposed to go and now they have them getting ready for the Rush, in which only people who are are true believer will be saved. But David is only 16 years old, how can a teenager give up on what’s so important for him: his girlfriend, his friends, baseball… so instead of being home waiting to be Rushed, he and his sister Mara are on a prom party and when they return they discover that his parents have disappeared.

David is an amazing character and is wonderfully written. The whole book is told from his POV and the structure of the book was one of my favorite aspects; the chapters go back and forth in time; we start from the “now” but then it flashes back to years, months or days away from his present. I think this was great and it made the story more dynamic because you start to wonder about events from the past and then you get to know things like the impact of his brother’s death on his family, how he knew his girlfriend Bailey and how their relationship developed, etcetera. You get the whole background of how life has been for David and for me that only made me care more for him, to say life hasn’t been easy for him would be an understatement and seeing how much his family has suffered, he would like nothing more than for everything to be at least better. Religion has been a comfort for David and he is a believer but that doesn’t mean he accepts everything without questioning or that he doesn’t disagrees with certain things, he keeps an open mind and I quite liked that.

Another great thing in the book is the relationships between the characters; they’re all very real and moving. Like with Bailey I found it pretty cool that despite how different they are they still get along so well. He comes from a religious family and his beliefs are important to him but then you have Bailey whose parents are sort of hippie, and she is a girl who believes in scientific facts, you would definitely think these two can’t be more opposite but neither one tries to change the other opinions, they accept how they are and can even agree to disagree on certain things and move on. Reading about these two was something I completely loved!!

I went through every emotion on this book, I was happy, frustrated, angry, hopeful, sad, it’s an emotional roller aster and I was fully immersed in the story. One might think the plot goes slow or something but it wasn’t like that all, for me I thought it always maintained an aura of mystery and suspense. The characters are not 100% good or bad, there are no extremes here but rather different shades of gray, they make mistakes; they do what they think it’s right, they are and I have to use this word again “real”.

I could go on but I’d just keep babbling about its awesomeness, like how great Jeri is writing from a guy’s POV, how beautiful the story is, so my advice to all of you is to please buy and read this book, there’s no other like it.
Profile Image for Liviania.
957 reviews64 followers
May 5, 2014
I've been a fan of Jeri Smith-Ready since WICKED GAME, the first book in her WVMP series, came out. It was smart, funny, and an inventive take on vampires. I was quite excited to read THIS SIDE OF SALVATION, her first foray into contemporary fiction.

David was a baseball star with a girlfriend he loved, but he gave it up because of the Rush. He didn't believe in the Rush, but he still prepared for it. Now his parents believed. They believed their priest, Sofia Visser, that they would be taken to heaven that night. David and his sister decided to go to prom. When they came home, their parents were gone and their pajamas left in bed. They still don't believe in the Rush, but they do believe they need to find their parents - especially before the bills are due.

THIS SIDE OF SALVATION moves back and forth in time, showing David and Mara's quest for the truth as well as the past that brought their parents to believe in a cult. David's own journey to a true faith is a contrast to his father's strange denial of reality. There's also a love story, showing how David and Bailey first came together and how they got back together once Bailey forgives him. I liked putting the pieces of the past and present together. Sometimes I'd gotten the entirely wrong impression about what happened in the past based on how characters spoke of it in the present.

I know some readers are reluctant to read books with religious themes. But THIS SIDE OF SALVATION is a true gem. It explores faith and loss in a powerful, nonjudgmental way. I felt that David's faith was moving and true, but didn't think it was alienating. Mercy and love are more important than being right. (There's some very interesting biblical debate and knowledge involving David's long-time best friend Kane, who comes out during the novel's past sections.)

I thoroughly enjoyed THIS SIDE OF SALVATION. Smith-Ready takes on contemporary issues with the same clear, funny writing she brought to urban fantasy. THIS SIDE OF SALVATION also has a hint of mystery that keeps the plot moving along instead of navel gazing. It would make an interesting reading companion to YA classic ARMAGEDDON SUMMER by Jane Yolen and Bruce Coville, which is also about teens whose lives are affected by their parents' belief in an upcoming apocalypse.
Profile Image for Carrie .
980 reviews452 followers
December 16, 2014

Another you get 24 hours to read this book from pulseits 31 books of Christmas.

David and his sister Mara are home schooled with many rules. No dating until 16 and only in a group setting. A strictness that seems to have happened after the death of the eldest son Jon. They are religious, their father speaking only in bible verse after the loss of employment. The bible also a replacement for his alcoholism. And now they believe the second coming of Christ is about to happen. The Rush as it is called. Their parents are believers that this is it and don't feel any need to plan for a future. Asking David to give up his worldly passions, friends, baseball. Not sigining Maras financial papers for a loan for university in the fall.

But what happens if the rush doesnt happen? What will hsppen to all the true believers? Is this just an excuse not live anymore or is then end drawing near?

This is a tale of how individuals deal with their gref. And how they want to believe in something so badly that it gives reason for their loss, their gref.
Profile Image for Suzanne.
635 reviews29 followers
January 27, 2015
Nope, just didn't do it for me. The topic of the Rapture, or Rush as it's called here, might interest some teens, particularly here in the Bible Belt, but this incarnation just fails to thrill, challenge, or titillate. For me, it wasn't particularly entertaining, so when I factor in YA attention spans, doesn't that mean even less of that audience will buy in to David's story of the prom night that corresponded to a religious leader's predicted date for the righteous and saved to be plucked from our world. The central mystery is what happens to David's parents who became believers in part due to the death of their eldest son while he was in combat.
Are they rushed to Heaven, the victims of kidnapping, of suicide, or just checking out of their suburban life?
Profile Image for Darcy.
12.4k reviews425 followers
April 27, 2014
I automatically picked this one up because the author is an auto read for me. But when I started to read it, well...I wondered what I was getting myself into. Parents believing the rapture is coming, having found God after their son was killed while serving over seas. I can see finding God, can even see where you would really get into religion, needing a reason why your son died. What I had a hard time with was forgetting about the dead son, claiming your remaining son was your only one, and not really caring about those kids that were still around. In the end, this one isn't wasn't for me.
Profile Image for Saoirse.
177 reviews31 followers
February 23, 2014
I wasn't really sure when I started this book. For the first half of the story, I wasn't fully invested in it. There were too many distractions for me and I find the flashbacks quite annoying. They drag the story and made no sense at first. But when I've reached the ultimate turning point where every detail falls into the right place, I find myself quite amused with the plot. It wasn't a bad book. It was more than good actually. That is, if you have enough patience to get this through, you'll see its beauty. This book deals with the topic of spirituality (a genre I don't quite find myself reading on a daily basis) and I'm so glad to be able to enjoy a story that's so far out from my comfort zone.

This Side of Salvation opens up to a sixteen-year old boy, David Cooper, who is just like any other regular high school student. A jock with good looks and charming personality, everyone is sure to find this guy as almost-kind-of perfect. After witnessing the death of his older brother, John, things got a bit shaky between David and his family. Everything was just not the same anymore. He became notorious and was sucked into a world of devious sins, which is so far from who he was. To add that up, his family—especially his parents—have become more religious, joining occults concerning about God and how the world was going to get Rushed—a time when the people of God were tested by their faithfulness in Him as they are about to join Him in heaven. So, basically Rush is a fancy term for end of the world. Then one night, after sneaking out to a party (just three hours before the Rush), David and his sister Mara, came home to find their house empty. Their parents are missing, leaving no trace behind for them to find some clues in, except for a laptop and their parents’ clothes on their bed, looking like someone just got them. With the help of David’s gay friend, Kane, and girlfriend, Bailey, along with his sister, they set off to find their parents with determined hearts. Even if they’ve changed, the fact that they’re still family to him remains constant forever, albeit everything.

I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about this one. I have never heard of Jeri Smith-Ready before (or her books, for that matter) but I’m a bit embarrassed by now to be so incognizant about such an amazing author. This was beautifully written in first person in David’s POV. It was such a nice relief to be able to be inside a single head for once (most of the books I’ve read recently are alternating POVs or multiple narratives which can get quite confusing and not to mention a pain in the head). The book is told between the past—most of them memories like what happened with David and his family for the past few months before the Rush, as well as some flashbacks in his childhood—and the now. I am not a big fan with this kind of book but it somehow worked for me. I guess. Or at least that’s how I tell myself.

The pacing was not good at first. I had a huge problem with that. Honestly, I struggled a lot for the first chapters which was such a shame because I was really, really excited for this book. I couldn’t afford to abandon this one so I stuck with it, endured the boredom, and was fully surprised to find the other half of the book increasingly interesting. Furthermore, I had some issues with this one aside from the plot consistency and the pacing though. I felt like the background narratives were far too long and that they take much of the book. I wasn’t a fan of the past chapters. The now chapters however tend to go really short. I don’t understand what that has to do with the plot. I guess it’s the way the author liked to write to add more enigma aura to the story.

But nevertheless, the characters definitely did a good job in portraying their roles really well. I’ve later on realized that they were so deep and full of emotions. I felt them. I felt their loss while they mourn for their lost loved ones. They remained genuine all throughout and I really appreciate their truthfulness to each other. I loved how they matured and made sacrifices for the love of their family even if it’s against their will. There were times when I wished I could drag David’s dad off from the book and get him to seek help immediately but most of the time, I’d just crack up when I read one of his Dad’s ‘bible-verse dialogues’.

David is one of the characters I love the most in the book. The side characters were beautiful also but David stood out for me. He was a really strong character and he proved just how manly he is by sacrificing all the good things he has in life. He’s very charismatic and open-minded. I adored how the author included a gay best friend for David who understood him well enough like a dear brother. David has a lot of ups and downs but he denied every obstacle that went to him. Even if that took a while, I’m glad that he finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel he was long travelling, especially when he pulled out of that darkness together with his family.

I know it’s not easy to let go of someone you know who can’t come back. It’s painful but you have no other choice but to deal with it. Jeri Smith-Ready offers the chance to open up to a whole new world of seemingly endless possibilities and realizations. I’ve learned a lot in this book. It’s very inspirational and gritty. Although this shows a hint of mystery and thrilling suspense (from the synopsis itself), I can assure you that every page leaves you contented and well fed.

I was lucky enough to snag an ARC from a friend for review purposes. I received this without any compensation. This does not affect my review in any other way.
500 reviews2,413 followers
March 13, 2014
You can find this review and more at Deadly Darlings, a young adult book blog.

*Thank you to Simon Pulse for the review copy!

First things first--I want you guys to know that this review will be coming from the perspective of a religious person, a believer, at that. I don't know if you'd have different thoughts on this one if you're from a different religion or don't have one.

Honestly, when I went into the novel, I thought that it'd be about a non-believer who went against his parents' beliefs. Boy, was I wrong. David believes in God, but he doesn't believe in the Rush/Rapture. He didn't let his parents (or his non-believer sister) influence what he believed in, and I really liked that about him. Okay, David definitely wasn't the best character out there, but he was a really believable one. He made mistakes, grieved, fell in love, supported his friends--he really acted like a teen, in my opinion.

"It's one thing to compete with another girl. But I can't compete with God." --Bailey (83% in the eARC)

A big part of the novel was the romance. I expected that from the synopsis, but after reading most of the "now" chapters (there are alternating "then" and "now" chapters), I was expecting more religion and family, less romance. Still, I thought it was okay. There weren't much feels, but I did swoon a little every now and then. The relationship between David and Bailey had development and was slightly realistic, considering they dated for months before dropping the "L" word.

But David didn't just focus on Bailey. He also had his best friend (Kane), who never left his side. David was also very supportive of Kane when he came out. He didn't let his parents disgrace Kane for his sexuality and still hung out with him, not giving a damn about what other people might think.

"When God closes a door, He opens a can of tear gas." -- 7% in the eARC

Let's talk a bit about the religious aspect of the novel, which I did enjoy and was able to relate to. In the novel, it was explained (and shown) that his older brother John had died in the military. It was a sad death that led to his parents' current belief in God. I think this is what happened to our family as well. When my grandfather passed away years ago, we just turned very religious. Every person has a different person to believe, so I liked how the novel kind of showed that.

It also showed the problems of being a believer. Sometimes, what they teach in Church isn't a realistic thing to believe in, right? Or sometimes, there are certain things that just seem highly unlikely. There are days when you questioned your beliefs. I think that was my favorite aspect of the novel--how realistic the religious aspect was.

The novel started out a bit weakly and slowly, but things start picking up towards the middle. Maybe I only thought that it was slow because the writing was a little bit plain? I read her other book, Shade, and didn't really have anything against her writing there, though. Back to this novel. The twist was definitely surprising for me and I honestly didn't see it coming.

Overall, it was an enjoyable read, although a few times I felt like hitting someone or falling asleep. I would recommend it to the more patient readers who are interested in family, friendship, romance and religion. As well as finding your own strengths and beliefs.
Profile Image for Elyse.
2,500 reviews123 followers
May 10, 2017
Read for free on Simon & Schuster's pulseit.com!

Something about this book bothered me. I'm not religious at all and don't believe in the Rapture or any of that and this book was just pretty dumb. If it were just a book about a family coping with the death of a loved one, I might've liked it. But the whole "Rush" thing was just cheesy. I just didn't buy it.
Profile Image for Sharon.
1,428 reviews8 followers
May 1, 2014
Smith-Ready's best book so far, and that's saying a lot.
Don't let the religious aspect hold you back from reading this one. The book does not preach, in any direction. It discusses and reflects. This is a story about family, not extreme religion. A story of pain, grief, resolve and resolution. And it's a darn good one, too.
Profile Image for Lis (The Reader L).
486 reviews35 followers
March 28, 2014

This side of Salvation by Jeri Smith-Ready is a wonderful story about family, friendship, love, loss and freedom.
David, the main character is in a very difficult situation because after the death of his brother his parents became religious, like hard-core religious, and David doesn’t know what to do. Because David is a normal teenager, he wants the things all the boys his age want.

So, personally, I think this book takes a topic that catches my attention: how people mix religion with fanaticism. This teaches us that it’s good to have God in our life but in a healthy way.
But don’t get me wrong, TSOS is not a religious book; it’s a contemporary story with a religious topic.
Jeri Smith-Ready amazed me once more with her gorgeous and light writing. TSOS is fast paced read with wonderfully written characters and a mysterious plot that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

And the characters… oh my, oh my, these characters were phenomenal!
David: He is a baseball player that leaves everything for his parents’ will, because he’s a good boy, he respect them, and he’s struggling with his unknown future.
Bailey: She’s sweet and funny. She’s a geek, she’s a free spirit.
Mara: David’s sister is the rebel, she’s good as well, but she’s strong and she knows what she wants for her life.
David’s mother: She’s passive. She loves his children but she doesn’t set her own rules, it’s like she thinks what her husband thinks.
David’s father: Oh, he’s the fanatic! And though I really hated his role in this story, I have to admit that he’s the best character of this book. Jeri Smith-Ready did an excellent job creating a character so complex. He is so well developed. You can hate him, but cannot deny he’s unforgettable and very, very realistic. (Except for "that" thing about his language, that was amazing!)
The other characters took a special role in this story, like Sophia and Kane but I rather not to tell anything about them.
Just let me highlight how incredible is this author at creating all sort of personalities.
And like I said, the writing is just as awesome as everything Jeri Smith-Ready writes.
This Side of Salvation is not just hard topics and heartbreak, This Side of Salvation has everything you look for in a contemporary story. Sometimes is fun, sometimes is sad. It has mystery and a sweet romance.

The only problem I had with this book is that I don’t like books narrated in “Then” and “Now” I don’t like going back and forth because, call me crazy, but I always skip the “Then” part. I like to know what’s happening right now.
That’s why I read This Side of Salvation twice.
Once it was a 4 stars book: when I read it the way it’s written.
Then, it was 5 stars: when I read first the “Then” part and then the “Now” part. My brain just works this way.
Overall, you just can’t miss This Side of Salvation. It’s unlike everything you ever read.

And now let me show you the quote that made me laugh like a manic. Note that this quote was taken from the ARC and it can change in the final copy.

“How many kittens did she have?”
“Four, including Tod. We fed the kittens this special formula from the vet, since Juno didn’t have enough milk.” I sat beside Bailey on the rug, wishing I could trade places with my cat. “Tod almost died, so my sister named him after a grim reaper from one of her favorite books. I think she thought it would protect him.”

Yes! Jeri is quoting TOD from the Soul Screamers series!!! Isn’t she awesome?
Profile Image for Adriana C.
588 reviews166 followers
April 16, 2014
Lately I have read several contemporary books about the loss of a loved one and each one of them is different because of how every person acts or feels different during mourning, but even though I founds this book a little different of the others and unique, perhaps because of the way it is told.

The book begins on the day that is supposed to be the end of the world (The Rush) in the prom after party that David is attending, in which he´s with his sister Mara, then both return home to discover that their parents missing. That´s why David and his sister must discover what really happened to their parents and if there is any way to find them.

The book is told from David´s POV and the chapters alternate between the present and the past, beginning when he was 7 years old until the day of the prom party, the day of the rapture (The Rush) and the day their parents disappeared.

In the past we see that his brother John died in Afghanistan when David was 12 years old and devastated his family; so for a while David was constantly fighting in school and then start to express what he felt at that time by graffiti, but when he turns 13 years old, his family visit another church and find a new meaning to their pain in religion, not only David´s parents convert to a different religion but also he and his sister but not only because his parents want them to do that but because David truly becomes a believer. So from there his entire family changes, David and his sister begin to be educated at home, to help the community, they start going to youth groups at his church and at home there is a new set of rules, which David and his sister followed to the letter.

David is a 16 year old who obeys his parents, is a very good baseball player and he loves this sport, he 's a good student and a devoted religious. But when his parents discover a website that talks about the Rapture or Doomsday (The Rush), which approaches this belief, they accept it with open arms and begin to make preparations for the day, they see it as something that make sense and then their parents start to behave differently, especially his father begins to speak only with quotes from the Bible (and nothing else) and David instead of feeling more connected to his parents, starts to feel that his parents have distanced themselves from everyone.

I really enjoyed this book and I must say that although This Side of Salvation is about religion, and has various references to the Bible, is not a religious book; is a book about a young man and his family, about how they struggle with the death of his older brother, which greatly affected his father and David (there is a part in the book where we get to see why), and David wants to keep his family together and try not to cause problems, how David finds his first love and friendship.

I received an eARC of this book from the publisher in exchange of an honest review.
Profile Image for Roberta R. (Offbeat YA).
371 reviews35 followers
January 10, 2019
Rated 4.5 really.

Excerpt from my review - originally published at Offbeat YA.

Pros: Fascinating premise. Believable, full-fleshed characters. Open-minded story that doesn't take sides.
Cons: Both Bible quotes and baseball talk are sprinkled rather freely, so you might get tired of them (they're integral to the plot though).
WARNING! Some teen sex, though not explicit or graphic.
Will appeal to: Both believers and agnostics (and even atheists, I swear) looking for a family/friendship/love story with funny touches and lots of depth.

I'm not a religious person, but I loved this book, also BUT not only because it tells both sides of the story (or maybe even three). I usually stay clear from romance, but the one here was done well AND was integral to the plot. Also, Smith-Ready knows how to write. Is this recommendation enough?


Writing a book where religion plays a main theme without turning it into a pamphlet for a specific belief (or lack thereof) is not an easy feat. Writing a book that's respectful of any stance on religion, where the author lets the characters tell the story without making any one of them a spokesperson, is an impressive accomplishment. The characters in TSOS cover all the spectrum from die-hard believers, to questioning Christians, to atheists, and even the ones who believe come in different packages (for example, David's friend Kane is gay, but his church doesn't consider it a sin). Each and every one of them - the main ones at least - also comes with their set of flaws and their chance at redemption (I'm using the word in a secular way here), except those who exploit faith for their own profit of course. At its core though, TSOS is not so much a story about believing, as a story about love and loss and the attempt of finding the meaning of life - or one of its possible meanings. And a coming-of-age tale where teens are not the only ones who have to grow into a better, more mature version of themselves. (Oh...and a story about baseball. Baseball is pivotal in the plot, but it's more like a way of life and a moral compass than a mere sport...). [...]

Whole review here.
Profile Image for Teresa Mary Rose.
1,132 reviews354 followers
July 19, 2014
More Reviews Here: Readers Live A Thousand Lives

This book is very hard for me to review. I really really enjoyed it, but I really just don’t know where to begin or what to say about it. This book is very different from anything I have ever read before and that is part of what made me enjoy it so much. The characters are great and the story really gets under your skin.

David is a great voice to read from and I really liked him. He has dealt with a lot of grief in his life and my heart breaks for him. His family is broken and he just doesn’t know how to get through to them anymore. I struggled with his parents a lot. Mostly because I didn’t like the way they treated their children. I felt as if they did not come first for them, and they should. While I liked David, I have to say my favorite character was Mara. I’m not really sure what exactly it was about her, but there was something. Maybe it’s because she named her cat after Tod from Soul Screamers or maybe it is just because she is very strong and independent, but there was definitely something.

I think my favorite thing about this book was the relationships. This book explores different kind of relationships and how they affect you. You have David and Bailey’s relationship which is really sweet. I loved it because they didn’t always agree, but they never pushed each other to believe something they would have been uncomfortable with. Then there is David’s relationship with his parents, which is strained to say the least, but he still loved them and is willing to do a lot to help them. And then there is David’s relationship with his sister Mara, which was my favorite. I loved how supportive they were of one another and that they could always count on one another despite their sometimes differing beliefs.

This Side of Salvation is just an all-around good read. It’s not something I would normally pick up, but I am very glad I did. This author has never let me down before, and This Side of Salvation was no exception. It’s a beautiful Young Adult Contemporary read.
Profile Image for Kat.
477 reviews166 followers
March 24, 2014
Religion in books is a difficult subject, and something I usually try and avoid. However, in This Side of Salvation it's used as a plot device that works well to drive the plot without shoving a whole bunch of ideals in your face. Add in a sweet romance and a close brother-sister relationship and a load of grief, and This Side of Salvation ticks a whole lot of boxes.

David and Mara's parents have always been religious, but when their older brother John is killed in tragic circumstances, they begin to become more and more involved in a radical religious movement, which focuses on the Rush - the more 'modern' version of the Rapture. David's father especially embraces religion as a lifestyle, most notably by speaking in bible quotations all the time.

This Side of Salvation is told in 'then' and 'now' alternating chapters, which works fairly well for the plot - as it begins with the disappearance of David's parents, rather than starting from the beginning and climaxing later in the story, its definitely an attention-holder.

My favourite thing about This Side of Salvation is the relationship between Mara and David - despite the fact that they have different beliefs and respond to the change in their parents differently, they actually become closer, especially once their parents disappear.

Whilst I enjoyed the romance between David and Bailey, at times it felt like it was a little 'thrown in for good measure' - I had much more invested in the sibling relationship, and even David's relationship with his best friend than in the actual romance itself. However, as characters David and Bailey had good chemistry and complimented each other pretty well.

What really stands out for me in This Side of Salvation is the depth of the grief felt by David's family - it's almost palpable in places and I could understand why his parents chose to cling to their beliefs - because they just didn't know how to deal with the death of their son.

Incredibly readable, with a fabulous sibling dynamic and an intimate study of how grief impacts people in different ways, it was a good read and I'm glad I picked it up.
Profile Image for Claire.
869 reviews54 followers
October 3, 2015
This Side Of Salvation is an exciting new direction for Jeri as it finds her dabbling in YA contemporary. This story delves into what happens when one very traumatic moment in life truly tips the balance on the harmony of family life. How far would you go to keep your family together and at what point do you realise it's not enough and let go? This is something David struggles with while still coming to terms with events in his past and trying desperately to be true to himself whilst hanging on to a future that's becoming more unobtainable.

TSOS was a very interesting read and completely different from my usual. The fact that all family members played a major role made a very nice change. I found myself at times reading it from a theological view point and occasionally with my Sunday School Teachers hat on, which I fear, made the book a little cliché in places. However, I loved David's surety about his faith and the way he evaluated life and balanced it out with his beliefs. Everyone struggles that's what makes us human. Mind you I was surprised to read just how much religion went into this story, but then again I'm English and our religion tends to stay on the back burners left to be filter through gradually.

Underneath everything its a journey of a family falling apart whilst still trying desperately to stay together however good the intentions and however catastrophic the results.

Jeri's writing style is a joy to read. She does her homework well and the pictures she paints are totally 3D and HD. It's a story that keeps you turning the pages till the very end.

Sadly this book has left me with some homework. I now have to go and learn the rules of baseball! What the hell does "Bottom of the sixth, it's Dodgers three, Phils two" even mean. Have pity on me, I've only just grasped American Football.
May 18, 2014
This was my first Jeri Smith-Ready novel and it will not be my last. This Side of Salvation was an honest look at how one family who is preparing for the Rapture. The parents believe what this prophet, Sophia, is telling them. David {our main character} doesn't believe the Rapture/Rush is coming on a certain date but is willing to sacrifice for his family and plays along with his family. Mara {the older sister} doesn't believe the Rapture/Rush is coming and doesn't play along. I'd go into it more but the summary pretty much takes care of what's up.

I loved this book. I'll be honest and say that I was nervous of how Christianity would be portrayed. I'm a Christian and feel that sometimes we are misunderstood but this book nailed it for me personally. For example, David's best friend is gay, his girl friend is an evolutionist and while some of his friends believe in God, others don't. And you know what? Not one time did Jeri Smith-Ready question anyone's beliefs or ways. No one shamed David for living a Christian life. No one shunned his best friend for coming out of the closet. No one told Bailey she was wrong. Sure there was a mini-debate in regards to creation vs evolution but it was intelligent and civil. Smith-Ready showed what it's like to love each other and accept each other for who we are and what we believe. It was so refreshing. The only time David had to defend himself was when he gives everything up for The Rush during his playacting for his family.

Anyway, I recommend this book to anyone who wants a funny read, likeable characters, honesty and a fun little twist in the end. Do it.
Profile Image for Diego Salvatore.
631 reviews37 followers
September 16, 2014
No puedo ni siquiera expresar cuanto me gustó este libro.

"This side of salvation" es un libro con el que me sentí muy identificado y pude relacionarme muy fácilmente con los personajes, la historia nos habla de David un chico que después de que su hermano muriera en la guerra en Afganistán su vida y su familia caen en depresión, hasta que se acercan a una iglesia y su vida cambia, Dios les ofrece esa paz que necesitan, todo esta bien hasta que encuentran esto que se llama "The Rush", una predicadora asegura que sabe la fecha y la hora exacta en la que será el rapto, sus padres fácil se creen esta historia y comienzan a prepararse para la gran venida, pero David y Mara su hermana no tan sencillamente se lo creen.

¿Que pasa cuando hay mucha religiosidad?

Es una novela cargada de escenas muy crudas pero totalmente creíbles y la manera en que Jeri lo plasmo fue simplemente maravillosa.

Las decisiones de David, sus dudas y sus respuestas fueron manejadas de una manera muy madura y sobre todo creíbles, sin duda este libro se ha vuelto uno de mis favoritos.

Profile Image for Judy.
578 reviews2 followers
April 6, 2014
I've never read anything quite like this book. I'll be honest. It had a lot more religion in it than I expected. But it's not a story about religion. This is a story about a boy (and his family) struggling to deal with the aftermath of his older brother's death in Afghanistan. I've been there - I've felt grief like that. The kind of grief that makes you feel like the world is wrong somehow and you can't fathom how everyone else can't feel how wrong it all is. Yes, religion plays a huge role in this book, but most of all it's a remarkable story about love and loss and family and friendships and first loves.

Like all her other books, the writing is beautiful and her characters are believable. That's one of the things I love best about Jeri's writing. This is Jeri's first foray into the contemporary world and I hope it's not her last.
Profile Image for Audrey.
48 reviews
December 28, 2014
I felt in the beginning that the book would portray or campaign the author's beliefs, which would have been offensive to some people, and I was afraid of the consequences of her using this book to her own religious or non-religious advantage. But the fears turned out to be moot because Jeri Smith-Ready seriously kept the religion thing out of her life and executed a beautiful book besides.
I really enjoyed the chapter style and felt really involved in both timelines the whole way through. I liked all of the characters and felt like all of them could be real people, something that you don't always get in a book but is really gratifying when you do.
In case you're worried: this book doesn't promote or push at any religion or atheism at any point, and if you're looking for religious guidance you will be (to put in her words) left scratching your head!
Four stars!
Profile Image for Racquel.
482 reviews
Shelved as 'ya-contemporary-tbr'
June 6, 2013
I have no words to describe how much I love this cover. Oh wait I've found some: it's amazing. I love the font and the title and how the top of the title breaks into "the rush" and all the "the rush" floating around just make it a great cover. Plus the summary sounds so freaking good so right now this book has it all.

It's an amazing cover. It really is.
Profile Image for Frankie Mallis.
Author 6 books422 followers
June 10, 2013
All Jeri Smith-Ready fans are in for a real treat with this one. TSOS is a detour from her usual paranormal/fantasy writing, but it still has all the soul of her SHADE series. I can't wait for everyone to read this!
Profile Image for Angel.
231 reviews25 followers
January 12, 2015
Amazingly, beautiful book about family and loss and the struggle to communicate.

On a lighter note, I will admit that "In the end, I chose the box with the fewest adjectives" is probably my favorite sentence.
47 reviews14 followers
September 2, 2016
This is a rare book that takes a serious look at the strengths and flaws of a variety of Christian experiences from the perspective a a teenage boy. It does not belittle faith but does ask some tough questions. The story line is fascinating too.
Profile Image for Alyssa.
1,069 reviews838 followers
August 8, 2014
***Review posted on The Eater of Books! blog***

This Side of Salvation by Jeri Smith-Ready
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: April 1, 2014
Rating: 4 stars
Source: eARC from Edelweiss

Summary (from Goodreads):

Everyone mourns differently. When his older brother was killed, David got angry. As in, fist-meets-someone-else’s-face furious. But his parents? They got religious. David’s still figuring out his relationship with a higher power, but there’s one thing he does know for sure: The closer he gets to new-girl Bailey, the better, brighter, happier, more he feels.

Then his parents start cutting all their worldly ties in to prepare for the Rush, the divine moment when the faithful will be whisked off to Heaven…and they want David to do the same. David’s torn. There’s a big difference between living in the moment and giving up his best friend, varsity baseball, and Bailey—especially Bailey—in hope of salvation.

But when he comes home late from prom, and late for the Rush, to find that his parents have vanished, David is in more trouble than he ever could have imagined...

What I Liked:

Before I begin my review, I want to mention something about the religion. I saw on Goodreads that a lot of other reviewers started by saying something about their religious beliefs (or lack thereof). I don't think it's important to mention my religious beliefs, but I will say that this book does involve religion. That being said, I don't think there is a religious THEME, necessarily. But religious beliefs are crucial in this book. Do you see the difference? This isn't necessarily a religious YA novel. It's a YA novel that involves religious content. The story matters more than the actual religion, even though the religion makes the story. Basically, don't let it bother you (if religion would be something to bother you).

So. After David's brother John was killed (quite terribly, I might add), David's parents turn to religion - specifically, a woman who claims that the Rapture (actually, the "Rush") is coming soon, and that the "rushing" families must prepare themselves, because the time is coming. Sounds familiar, right? There have been many cults like this, when a perhaps claims that the Rapture is coming, so sell all your worldly belongings and come follow the person! Oh, and give them all your money.

David himself is a Christian, and believes in the Bible. But, he thinks the Rush is a bit ridiculous. He is with his prom date (at prom) when the Rush happens, on May 11th at 3 a.m. (I think I got that right!). When he and his sister come home (she wasn't his prom date, don't worry), they find their parents gone, with their pajamas in the bed - as if their parents' bodies simply vanished out of their clothes.

I found this story very interesting, to be honest. I've read a thousand and one stories about Rapture claims and cults and so-called prophets, even all that mess with May 20th and December 20th in 2012 or whatever. I'm going to keep my beliefs out of this review (or try), but I've always believed that those cults were (and are) bogus, and are led by people who just want your money.

That's how David feels, and Mara (his sister). And his girlfriend, Bailey. And his best friend Kane. And everyone. David doesn't believe in the Rush, but he agreed to give up everything - baseball, Math Cave (home-school group something), Bailey, Kane - but only if his parents would get help, if the Rush didn't happen. Crazy, right? And David actually followed through with his part of the deal.

This book is split into alternating points in the story. It's told completely in David's perspective (first person, at that), but every other chapter alternates between the present time, and sometime in the past, from when John first died, to when the parents first heard of Sophie Visser and the Rush, right up until the present. I absolutely LOVE that Jeri Smith-Ready did this - and the way she constructed the two parts of the story was excellent. Usually, I hate the jumping back and forth between time (it just gets annoying and confusing after a while), but I think it really worked well in this story. Especially since the things being revealed from the past really matched up with David's thoughts as well as things happening in the present. I don't know how to explain that... trust me, it's really great.

The romance in this story is simple and beautiful - I really like David and Bailey together. From the start, we know that they are the couple of the story. BUT, the flipping back and forth between the present and the past shows us how their relationship started and grew. I really like this, because it's a different way of showing readers a developing relationship. We already knew it happened, and we knew key things about the relationship from the very beginning of the book, but it's so sweet to see things progress. This is an instance in which the flipping between present and past really works.

I enjoyed reading from David's perspective. He isn't quite the typical teenage boy - he's definitely a lot more religious than the vast majority of teenagers in general, he's home-schooled, but he's also a dedicated athlete (and now I think I'm obsessed with baseball players all over again... thanks, Katie McGarry and Jeri Smith-Ready!). David's personality is definitely an agreeable one, as was Mara's, Bailey's, and Kane's. I wouldn't have minded reading this book from any of their perspectives - but David's was the pertinent.

The plot of this book is a bit slow, but in a good way. We get parts of the present, we get parts of the past. Not much time passes in the present, but YEARS are shown from the past. The climax of the book is obvious, but there are a few twists at the end. Overall, the plot is really solid, and the pacing is good. I'm glad this book is a standalone - it ended really well (not necessarily GOOD or BAD, but WELL).

What I Did Not Like:

Off the top of my head, I think the only things I might not have liked were the slow-ish plot, but it didn't bother me too much. I didn't read this book in one sitting - which usually means that I hit a boring or not-so-interesting part, and had to take a break, but eh, it happens.

Overall, I'm really pleased with this book. I wasn't sure if I would like it, but I did!

Would I Recommend It:

This book probably isn't for everyone, I can say that now. However, I think that anyone open-minded enough to read it will at least like it! Look past the religion, and you've got a really great and intriguing story! I mean, come on, don't you want to know if David's parents were really caught up in the Rapture (excuse me, I mean, the Rush)? Read it!


4 stars. I can successfully say that I have enjoyed all of Jeri Smith-Ready's published, full-length novels! And I'll definitely be reading what she has in store for us in the future.
Profile Image for Holly.
1,803 reviews125 followers
May 12, 2022
I found Jeri Smith-Ready's books years ago and found I really enjoyed her writing. This book sounded like something I would like, but I just never got around to actually getting my hands on it. I mean, I remember all those moments about 10 years ago when everyone thought the world would end in December 2012 and they kept making movies about that stuff.

And this was really good. And unique. The story is told in a somewhat non-linear fashion. Every chapter flips between Before and After the Rush. So very early on in the story, we see what happens when David and his sister, Mara, miss the Rush. But it takes time to show us how their family got to this point in the first place. And it's so tragic to watch all of that unfold.

While this book has a lot of religious undertones, it neither defends nor decries religion or those who believe in it. David's family is extreme in their beliefs, something believers and nonbelievers both point out. Sometimes David has to fight these Rushers with the same Biblical passages they're using to defend their beliefs. But it doesn't really look down on anyone or try to turn anyone off of religion. As someone who has a complicated relationship with organized religion, I appreciated that I could enjoy this without feeling like I was being preached to.

The characters in this book are so deeply flawed but so relatable. David's family went through a horrible moment and they all deal with their grief in different ways. And that reveals the complexities of grief and the complexities of people. We all search for meaning in different ways. We all search for acceptance and love in different ways. So seeing this family struggle with so much, it felt deep. It mattered.

This was really good. It did get a little slow at times, but this was really interesting to see how everything unfolded.
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