This Side of Salvation is Jeri Smith-Ready’s first foray into contemporary fiction. Although she’s already getting well-known for paranormal (both YA and adult) with the Shade and WVMP series, this is the first time she’s published a contemporary YA novel.
And it’s fabulous.
This Side of Salvation follows the plight of David as he attempts to make sense of his life. He’s dealing with the death of his brother, the changes as his parents first remove him from school and then from the church he’s known all his life, and their attachment to the Rush.
Written in a back and forth between now and then, the timeline is easy to follow as each chapter is clearly marked with when it is before the Rush. The story is told by David who is struggling to understand what has happened and how it affects him. He turns to his friends and his sister, clinging to what he knows and asking questions.
Each person grieves in their own way and this shows a family struggling to find answers in a world that doesn’t always give them. The story itself is an engrossing read, drawing the reader in and showing how one family copes with (or doesn’t cope) with grief in a very real way.
Smith-Ready takes something that affects everyone in some way and wrote a thought-provoking novel that touches on somewhat controversial subjects without becoming preachy or trying to inflict her views on the reader. It is clearly intended to make the reader think, but not force you to take the author’s views.
I would definitely recommend it to older students (9th to 12th grade) who have suffered a loss or to more mature younger readers. It gives them a way to relate without forcing them to completely focus on the grief of losing someone close to them.