Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Rapture Practice by Aaron Hartzler

Aaron Hartzler is a classic "preacher's kid" -- his dad teaches at a local Bible college, Aaron and his siblings (all of whom have similarly Biblical names) go to Christian schools, and their home is free of worldly temptations like television, movies, and secular music.  Aaron is raised to believe that the Rapture -- Jesus' return to Earth -- could happen at any moment, and that he should conduct himself at all times as if Jesus were about to appear.  When Aaron's parents transfer him to an uber-conservative high school on account of a small transgression (buying a secular CD as a gift for his girlfriend and then lying about it), he begins to question how much of his belief system is his own and how much has been forced upon him.

Rapture Practice is a YA memoir, and the author's first book.  It was a quick read, and overall I enjoyed it.  Teens who are struggling with their own religious identities will likely find Aaron to be a sympathetic and relatable narrator. There were some great moments of humor, like when Aaron's mom discovers Aaron secretly listening to secular radio and asks "My precious son, who are your feet running after?" Aaron's mental response? "The answer is simple: Peter Cetera."  The book's main weakness was somewhat uneven writing, particularly the dialogue passages, which came across as canned and unrealistic.  Also, some truly jarring instances of borderline abusive behavior from Aaron's dad, depicted in flashbacks toward the end of the book, were thrown in and then sort of left there with little fanfare or processing.  But I was impressed with the author's ability to convey his genuine affection for his family even in the face of some pretty overwhelming personal conflict.

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