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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Rapture Practice by Aaron Hartzler

Rapture Practice opens with a note from the author, Aaron Hartzler:

"Something you should know up front about my family:
We believe that Jesus is coming back."

This initial detail introduces us to Aaron's family, a family that believes in the rapture, the idea that Jesus is going to come back down to earth and bring good people up to heaven. Aaron has been a part of his family's religious lifestyle for his entire life. He performs in plays of Bible stories with his family. They don't go to movies, don't have a TV, don't listen to many kinds of music. They are focused on living properly so that when Jesus comes back, they will get to go to heaven.

At first glance, Rapture Practice probably seems like one of those sensational stories that we see nowadays, books about someone's abusive childhood or crazy cult. What's so refreshing about this book is that it isn't sensational. The entirety of the book can be summed up in one conversation that Aaron has with his friend Bradley:

"But what happens when the truth inside me feels different from what my parents say is the truth?" I wonder aloud. I don't expect Bradley to have an answer to this question, but he does.

"I think that's called growing up," he says.

This is, at its core, what Rapture Practice is about: growing up. It is the coming-of-age story about a character who goes through the "journey of change and self-discovery" that we have all discussed in English class. And I loved it for that. I love how Aaron describes this universal experience through the lens of his own unique situation, all the while making it clear that his parents do love him and want what's best for him. We can't hate them, even if we don't necessarily agree with what they believe.

I just have a few relatively minor complaints about the book. First off, I felt like it was missing an epilogue. The conclusion of the regular part of the book was perfect, bringing the story full circle to return to the idea of rapture. However, Aaron leaves the reader wondering where he is at now--after all, he's not a teenager anymore. He begins to question his sexuality during his story and I would have liked to know how that played out with his parents. Secondly, the writing wasn't always stellar. It was perfectly functional, but a bit awkward at times, and the simplistic voice used for 4-year-old Aaron doesn't evolve too much as Aaron gets older.
Overall, I'd give Rapture Practice a 3.9. I would read it again, and would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a good coming-of-age story. I'm not really sure about a food, but perhaps I'll think of one later.

Here's Aaron Hartzler's website:

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