Kirkus and Publishers Weekly have already weighed in with 100% positive reviews (I used my special author superpowers to read between the lines for anything negative), so TSOS is 3 for 3 so far when it comes to the major review publications. None of my previous novels have even been reviewed by more than two of these journals at once, so this is a major milestone for me.
Anyway, Booklist said:
David, 16, and his sister, Mara, mourned plenty over the military death of their older brother. Their parents, however, shifted their religiousness to a higher gear, with Dad speaking entirely in “Bibleish” (biblical quotes) and both parents becoming disciples of a charismatic preacher who predicts the Rapture—or “the Rush,” as she calls it—will occur on May 11 at 3 a.m. For this smart, well-rounded, and unpredictable tale, Smith-Ready juggles two time lines. The first begins on the morning of the Rush, when David and Mara return late from a party to find that their parents have vanished right on schedule. Assuming the Rush is a ridiculous notion, has something terrible, such as a dual-suicide, occurred? The second time line brings us up to speed on the past nine years, a slow-motion train wreck during which the siblings are gradually asked to abandon “all earthly pursuits.” This is a deceptively easy read in the Dana Reinhardt vein, but Smith-Ready intersects both time periods with aplomb, bringing to light issues of belief versus free will, spirit versus body, and family versus self—while never being heavy-handed. It ends up being quite a mystery and a believable one at that. An eye-opening look at the limits, uses, and misuses of faith. — Daniel Kraus
I love how he describes the Cooper family's unraveling as a "slow-motion train wreck." Sadly, that's often the way it is with families when they don't get the help they need to cope with tragedy.
The part I italicized made me do a little dance, especially the "spirit versus body" part. It took me back to when I was writing TSOS and listening to Arcade Fire's Neon Bible album EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. When it got to the last song, "My Body is a Cage," I would think about David's internal war between his physical and spiritual desires. It wasn't the stereotypical religious kid's black-and-white choice where he felt he had to remain physically or sexually "pure" to get into heaven. It was broader than that, as he tried to figure out what it meant to be in the world but not of the world.
Anyway, these philosophical issues are always percolating in my head while I'm writing, but it's hard to not to lose sight of them while trying to create a gripping story. It's nice to know that some of the stuff in my brain actually made it onto the page, stayed there through every draft and edit, then clicked with someone else's consciousness.