Lynn: I thought I had some tough dilemmas to deal with lately but those are nothing compared to what 17-year-old Elena faces in Shaun David Hutchinson’s new book, The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza (2018). Here’s the deal: Elena has heard voices emanating from everyday objects her whole life, so it’s not a huge surprise when the Starbucks logo speaks up. What is a surprise is what happens next: a fellow student walks in and shoots Freddie, the girl Elena has a secret crush on. The voice tells her to heal Freddie and she discovers she can—when she does, the shooter disappears in a flash of golden light. The voices tell Elena the world is ending and, with her power to heal, she is the only person who can save humanity. Stunned and bewildered, Elena realizes that each time she heals someone, an escalating number of people around the globe vanish, carried away by the mysterious golden light.

The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun David HutchinsonWhere do they go? What happens to them? How are they chosen? No one knows, least of all Elena, who has no idea whether she is indeed saving humanity or being played by some cosmic practical joker. Her best friend Fadil believes wholeheartedly that it’s God’s plan. Freddie, beset by depression, resents being saved in the first place. Elena herself is both mocked and revered, hounded by requests to heal people’s loved ones and absolutely paralyzed by indecision.

Hutchinson peoples his book with a charmingly endearing cast of characters including Muslim Fadil, Elena’s jerky ex-boyfriend Javi (who may not actually be such a jerk), her hardworking Mom, and cameo appearances by characters from previous books. Hutchinson forces readers to learn about the unfolding situation right along with Elena, placing them squarely on the horns of the dilemma, too.

Sharply funny and weirdly wonderful (in the best sort of way), the book explores complex, deeply thoughtful questions of faith and free will while also examining issues of mental health, sexuality, and bullying. And did I mention that Elena is the scientifically authenticated product of a virgin birth? What a book!

About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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