Everything You Need to Survive the Apocalypse

The debut novel from Lucas Klauss begins as a romance between atheist and evangelist. Phillip, the son of an atheist engineer, meets freckled, green-eyed, "unconventionally hot" Rebekah -- "with a k and an h, like in the Bible" -- while both are running track under the watchful eye of Randy Farragut, a.k.a. Ferret, a thirty-ish assistant coach who tortures him and flirts with her. She's missing her father, who has ditched his family to convert the heathen in Indonesia. He's missing his mother, who became obsessed with doomsday prophecies, built a bunker in their basement, left his father, and then died. Phillip loves stories of the apocalypse; Rebekah offers him her father's Bible, urges him to read Revelations and to join her Wednesday night youth group. He's pretty sure she's flirting, but maybe she just wants his soul?

At first, the swashbuckling Christian adventure stories seem to Phillip like just another "epic" version of Dune and other sci-fi favorites. But Rebekah and Ferret -- who turns out to be moonlighting as youth outreach coordinator at the church -- bring him further into the fold; soon he is hanging out with teens who congregate at the local convenience store, hoping to convince sinners to "turn beer into soda pop," while his former best friends continue to throw keggers. But this book is neither mere teen romance nor straight conversion narrative. It is much odder, less conventional, and more ambitious than any of that. It isn't so much about getting the girl or finding the Truth as about the small, slippery half truths and setbacks one encounters along the way. By the end, Phillip comes to see faith and doubt, sin and redemption, and love and friendship not as ends in themselves but as the beginning of really good questions.

April 17: "In less than three years, both GM and Chrysler would be bankrupt, and a resurgent Ford would wow Wall Street..."

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

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