The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun David Hutchinson

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun David HutchinsonThe Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun David Hutchinson
Published by Simon Pulse on February 6, 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Science Fiction, Fantasy
Pages: 438
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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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.

Shaun David Hutchinson’s books are such a specific mood. They’re incredibly weird and thought-provoking and unique and did I mention weird? There’s such a consistent vibe to them, and the same themes crop up repeatedly, which kind of makes me want to write a thesis about his books, but I’m not nerdy enough to do that just for fun. The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza, like many of his others, was an odd delight for me. Odd, because it’s not a happy book, but it felt to me like Roswell meets Wonderfalls, and the latter is one of my favorite TV shows of all time, so hell yes.

The opening scene of this book screams Roswell. The heroine works in a coffee shop, and her crush Freddie (a girl—FYI the heroine is bi) gets shot by another student. The Starbucks logo siren tells Elena to heal Freddie, and she gives it a go, only to discover she actually does have healing powers. As in Roswell, these two who didn’t know each other forge a connection they previously did not have (Elena had a crush, but they’d never spoken and Freddie didn’t know her name), and the girl who has been healed is forever changed by her brush with death. That’s the part that’s Roswell.

Oh, right. That thing about the Starbucks siren talking to Elena? That’s actually not weird in her life, but it’s obviously supes weird to other people. Elena was actually born of a virgin, not through Biblical means but through parthenogenesis, which I’m not even going to try to explain. I thought that was fun, because I don’t think I’ve ever read anything where someone took that tack with a virgin birth before.

Anyway, the voices bring in the Wonderfalls comparison. Odds are that you have not heard of Wonderfalls, let alone seen it, though props if you have, because it only ran for 13 episodes. In fact, it canceled before they finished airing, I believe, but they filmed to a satisfying (sort of, because I do want more) ending, planning on DVD sales. The show’s about a girl named Jaye, stuck in a rut post college, living in her home town, working retail, and hating her life. One day, a little wax lion starts talking to her and telling her to do things, as do other inanimate objects with faces. The show does a lot of questioning about whether Jaye is crazy, whether the voices are divine, or whether they’re from some other source. All of this is so exactly The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza. If Shaun David Hutchinson hasn’t seen Wonderfalls, it will blow his damn mind if he does see it.

Being the miracle girl, even though it’s science and not a religious miracle that she exists, has obviously been stressful for Elena. People either look at her with reverence or, more often, mock her, calling her Mary, and assuming her mother is lying. She’s got a best friend (Fadil) and her loving mother, but otherwise her life has been pretty non-amazing. All of that’s the case even before she heals someone and the speculation goes over the top. Reporters show up, as does a creepy woman who wants to talk to her on behalf of someone mysterious. The government is tracking her movements. Oh, and the voices are telling her she needs to heal a bunch of people (which leads to a bunch of people apparently being raptured btw) or the world will end. That’s a lot of damn pressure for a teenager (or anyone of any age tbh).

Though the romance between Elena and Freddie didn’t really work for me, I do appreciate Hutchinson branching out with a female POV and an f/f ship. There were several times that people suggested she should be with Fadil, and I was so grateful that did not happen. Also, I thought Elena’s relationship with Fadil had a nice arc to it. You don’t learn as much about him as you should, but he totally ends up calling her on focusing too much on herself. I love when this happens and gets resolved in healthy ways, because, even without an apocalypse, it can be easy to get caught up in your own shit, but it doesn’t need to be life-ruining. She needed to be called out on her double standards too.

Hutchinson’s novels always run the line between science fiction and contemporary, and this one’s no different. I can’t say that I love this plot, but at the same time I do feel like it’s more like a vehicle for exploring ideas than a conclusive story. His books almost feel like a dialog. One neat thing is that I noticed cameos to some of his earlier characters, most notably the MC from We Are the Ants there to give her advice about being the person standing between life and apocalypse.

Hutchinson’s books really don’t sound like my kind of books, but they’re so well done, and I’m so glad I gave them a chance. They’re not quite like anything else out there (except his own works), and I love how daring and high concept they are. I would love to pick his brain someday.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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