Thursday, May 01, 2014

What we're reading: Road trip

The Last Days of California, by Mary Miller, is a classic road-trip novel told from the perspective of 15-year-old Jess as she travels from Alabama to California with her evangelical parents and older sister, Elise. They’re trying to make it to Pacific Standard Time in order to be among the last people taken by the impending Rapture. Along the way, family secrets are exposed--Jess’s father has lost his job, and this probably has more to do with why the family is skipping town than the souls they are ostensibly trying to save. Also, Elise is secretly pregnant but behaves as though nothing is different. Jess is tired of being the "good" sister, and so she attempts to meet (and make out with) as many boys as possible at the hotels in which they stay along the way.

Miller has a great eye for detail. I loved Jess’s observations about her father and his annoying behavior, but also the tenderness she felt for him when she saw others disapproving of him. Most of all, I enjoyed the sisters' relationship, myself having endured family road trips with my parents and younger sister. Jess still wants to please her parents, but is also anxious to get some life experience, while Elise is completely over her parents and seems to have agreed to go on the trip just to mock it. Jess and Elise love each other but don’t quite understand each other. They are rivals and partners, competing for male attention but coming together to torment their parents.

Between Miller’s acute observations of the family dynamic and her razor-sharp wit, I enjoyed every page of this novel.

Reviewed by Laura M., reference librarian

Editor's note: You will find this novel on the "New Books" shelves at all three branches.

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