Sixteen-year-old Elena Mendoza is the product of a virgin birth.
This can be scientifically explained (it’s called parthenogenesis), but what can’t be explained is how Elena is able to heal Freddie, the girl she’s had a crush on for years, from a gunshot wound in a Starbucks parking lot. Or why the boy who shot Freddie, David Combs, disappeared from the same parking lot minutes later after getting sucked up into the clouds. What also can’t be explained are the talking girl on the front of a tampon box, or the reasons that David Combs shot Freddie in the first place.
As more unbelievable things occur, and Elena continues to perform miracles, the only remaining explanation is the least logical of all—that the world is actually coming to an end, and Elena is possibly the only one who can do something about it.
This is my first time reading a Hutchinson novel (despite having many of his on my TBR) so it was an interesting experience. On one hand, the topic at hand – a bisexual teen from virgin birth who is suddenly able to perform miracles – is pretty intriguing, but on the other hand, there is also the fact that when it is all done with, the plot felt stretched out and insubstantial? I have seen other reviews saying how it is not on par with his other novels, but I have only this first exposure to writing to go on.
The main plotline of this book was what drew it to me in the first place, and in that case it didn’t disappoint, in a way. It was as weird in execution as I imagined – with there being talking Starbucks logos, and unicorns and stuff. Elena is an out bisexual teen who has been crushing hard on a fellow classmate Freddie, and one day when Freddie is shot by another of her classmates, she is able to miraculously save her. Soon she finds out that she can perform miracles -healing and saving lives, but there is a cost that escalates every time she uses it. And then she finds out that she is just a tool for some divine-like power to wield, and there is a constant battle within her of whether or not she should use her powers or whether she has a choice in doing so.
The story, aside from this main plotline, also constantly brings up existential questions, and what it means to have choices, free will, and what can be fixed and what is broken. Freddie herself, the first ‘saved’ individual has a character arc in which she questions if she is worthy of being saved. Her depression is presented in a sensitive manner, and the complicated romance with Elena doesn’t detract from the truth of her condition. Also, the romance is unexpected in the way that the girl who Elena was attracted to is not the same Freddie she gets to know after the miracle, but they grow into their relationship nevertheless. Another secondary character of note is Fadil, who is a religious Muslim boy who is questioning his sexuality (ace) and presents a different viewpoint to Elena about her powers and along with Freddie, is part of her emotional support. Parts of the novel may seem sacrilegious, but it is not to mock religion, rather questions it from a logical angle. Besides that, though, it constantly pokes fun at current affairs and a certain orange-tinged President so it was pretty entertaining to read in those parts.
The thing that stopped this novel from being totally amazing, though, is the rut that it gets stuck into midway through the story, where it is just Elena going back and forth over whether or not to use her powers in light of the costs, and Freddie and Fadil both disapproving in opposite ways, and rinse and repeat. If it was meant to highlight the difficulty of making such a god-like choice in getting to decide who lived or died, it went overboard on that front – it just ran round the same circles and then it was just exhausting on part of the reader (me) who just wanted it over with. The ending was unexpected, and unusual, and I think it was satisfactory in some ways, but it never does explain the whole thing, so I guess I wasn’t fully satisfied with the world-building.
Overall – an interesting topic executed well, but could have been edited better.
Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Simon Pulse, via Edelweiss.
Length: 448 pages
Rep for: bisexual WOC protagonist, MOC secondary character, f/f romance, LI with depression