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.
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Strong sexual themes.
Booklist starred (November 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 5))
Grades 9-12. Elena was the product of a virgin birth, but it wasn’t a miracle; just garden-variety, statistically improbable, yet no less possible, parthenogenesis. What is a miracle, however, is her ability to heal people, which she discovers when her crush gets shot right in front of her. Healing powers are pretty cool, but whenever Elena heals someone, several other people disappear in a beam of golden light. Compounding the problem, a chorus of bossy voices, which appear in a variety of objects, tell Elena that she should heal as many people as possible, because the ones who disappear are being saved from a terrible future. With crackling banter and vivid characters, Hutchinson offers readers an enjoyably weird, poignantly philosophical exploration of friendship, duty, and free will. There’s lots to like here: Elena’s relationship with her best friend, Fadil (a devout Muslim boy), is refreshingly, unquestioningly platonic, and Hutchinson touches on such important topics as sexuality, mental illness, and grief in a lighthearted yet sincere and sensitive way. And, especially for a book addressing such tough topics, it’s often just plain funny. While the overarching premise sounds a bit like an ethics-class thought experiment (in a good way!), Hutchinson always keeps the story firmly grounded in Elena’s relationships and, more important, her believable growth, particularly when it comes to her own faults. Surreal, brainy, and totally captivating.
Kirkus Reviews (January 15, 2018)
A coffee chain is the unlikely setting of a miracle healing that sets in motion events that herald a coming apocalypse. Sixteen-year-old Elena Mendoza was the product of a virgin birth. While unkind classmates taunt her with the nickname “Mary,” there is a scientific explanation for her existence: parthenogenesis. Essentially a clone of her half-Cuban, half-white mother, she also hears voices emanating from inanimate objects. When Elena saves the life of her longtime crush, Freddie, after she is shot at a Starbucks, she discovers the trade-off: with each healing, random people disappear from Earth, beginning with the shooter himself. Freddie, whose race is not described, struggles with depression and has mixed feelings about her role as the involuntary recipient of a miracle cure even as the two embark on a rocky flirtation. Elena must decide whether to listen to her best friend, Fadil, a devout Muslim boy who believes her powers are God-given; the clamoring voices speaking through a My Little Pony, Lego Gandalf, and other objects that tell her she is destined for greatness; or her own doubt-ridden conscience. Fantasy fans who desire intricate technical explanations may be disappointed at what is left unexplained, but the story is about faith, after all, and readers who appreciate relationship-driven novels will have much to savor. Elena’s bisexuality is refreshingly unproblematic—simply another aspect of her nature that is accepted by those around her—an echo of the deft treatment of differences among the diverse cast of characters. A creative and original tale shot through with quirky humor that entertains while encouraging readers to ponder questions of free will and social responsibility. (Fantasy. 14-adult)
About the Author
Shaun is a major geek and all about nerdy shenanigans. He is the author of We Are the Ants, The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley, The Deathday Letter, fml, and the editor of the anthology Violent Ends.
He currently lives in South Florida with his dog and watches way too much Doctor Who.
His website is www.shaundavidhutchinson.com.
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