No Parking at the End Times
by Bryan Bliss
Expected Publication Date: February 24, 2015
Length: 272 pages
Obtained Via: I received an advanced reader’s copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my final opinion of the work.
View at the Traffic light:
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.
I’m a sucker for books about teens with parents who either join cults or follow a Doomsday preacher, so I’m no stranger to some of the concepts present in No Parking at the End Times. What makes this book stand out is the place it starts–after Brother John’s prophetic Day of Judgement never comes to pass. Suddenly, main character Abigail has to come to terms with the fact that the event she was told to have faith in never happened, and now her family is indeed homeless. It was one thing when it was going to be a temporary arrangement while waiting to be taken to heaven–it’s a different story when Abby realizes that living in her family’s van has no end date.
No Parking at the End Times explores homelessness in a way I haven’t read in a YA before. For one, Abigail’s family is still together(even if they are falling apart at the seams), and two, this is still relatively new for them. There are bright spots in Abigail’s days and nights but also extreme lows, which is to be expected. The exploration of homelessness in a new city felt really fair and like it was given it’s due share.
What really drew me into No Parking at the End Times, however, was the exploration of Abigail’s faith and doubt, as well as that of her family. While Abigail’s parents are extremely frustrating at times(“extremely frustrating” is a bit of an understatement), they still love Abigail and Aaron and their portrayal in the book is nuanced and fair. Something about this exploration of faith and doubt just struck me on a very personal level.
In previous books I’ve read that have a similar vibe, the main character tends to fall into one of two camps. Either they’re just on board with religion as their parents are, following blindly, or they’re completely skeptical and atheistic. Abigail falls somewhere in the middle for most of the novel and I appreciated that more than I can possibly say in this review. Abigail wants to believe in God, but she can’t believe in Brother John, who keeps on taking their money and making their family make sacrifices. In some ways, I’ve very much felt like I’ve been where Abigail was, and I liked how sympathetic the book was towards that entire subject. I’ve never had my faith taken advantage of, but in the past I HAVE been in a place where I was told blind faith and obedience=being faithful, and someone could have easily manipulated that for their own ends, as much as I hate to admit it now. I related so strongly to the nuance of Abigail’s faith and doubt.
Because maybe if we both pretend for a few minutes, God will see we’re trying and do something. Maybe it will reconnect whatever’s been cut inside of me and I’ll go back to the way it used to be. Feeling God everywhere, in everything.
There were many times when Abigail’s inner train of thoughts in regards to faith, doubt, and skepticism exactly mirrored my own at past points in my life. Those were the times when the book really pulled me in. At times the writing in No Parking at the End Times is a little simplistic and stilted, but Bliss manages to really capture some complex thoughts in Abigail’s head. Even when the book focused on the family’s day-to-day life in San Fransisco, those thoughts were the undercurrent that ran through everything. I’m definitely glad I picked up this book and gave it a chance, and I very much appreciate how it never shied away from the nuance and complexity of faith and how easy it can sometimes be to be taken in.
I wasn’t completely sold on the writing style, but other than that No Parking at the End Times totally worked for me. It reached me in a very personal way. I know most readers probably won’t have the same reaction to the story that I did, but I do think it’s a good book to really get you thinking. 4/5 stars.