Agnes at the End of the World by Kelly McWilliams

Completely Riveting!

Agnes resides within a cult at Red Creek but she doesn’t realize that she’s part of a cult. She’s the eldest of several siblings and is responsible for taking care of their family because their mother is severely depressed. Agnes sneaks to the Outside once a month to retrieve insulin for her younger brother Ezekiel, even though she knows it’s against the rules. Her sister Beth, the next eldest sibling, is a rebel and doesn’t like the rules. When Beth is caught kissing a boy, she’s disgraced by their father and the community. Agnes has been betrothed as a sixth wife to a middle-aged man and before she gets married, she has to teach Beth everything so she can then become the family caretaker. The middle-aged man decides to marry Beth instead of Agnes to straighten Beth out. In the meantime, a ferocious virus is spreading throughout the world and eventually arrives at Red Creek. The Prophet releases an infected dog during a church meeting and, after a few people are bitten, he tells them about his revelation; the Rapture has arrived and everyone must move into the underground bunker. Agnes escapes with Ezekiel and is heartbroken that she’s left the rest of her siblings behind. She knows that the bunker would be a death sentence for Ezekiel because there’s no insulin for him. This is a riveting story about cults, self-worth, self-importance, bravery, love, loyalty, and sacrifice. The author’s note explains the cult background information being from a nonfiction book of a survivor who escaped a true cult. A wonderfully written and all-encompassing story about love, sacrifice, and different faiths, 5 stars!

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

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Family members left behind after a suicide face deep pain. Resources offering real help are included in this book! Thanks to NetGalley and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for the opportunity to read and review The Astonishing Color of After! The main character saw her mother’s suicide and believes that her mother has visited her as a bird. No one believes her even though she has physical evidence. Her and her father visit her maternal grandparents in Taiwan and even though they don’t speak much English, they believe that the bird is true. This book is difficult to categorize into a genre, but even though it has supernatural happenings throughout the story, I feel that this is still, above all, a realistic fiction tale. The deep pain that survivors of suicidal family members face is a real problem and an intense struggle that hasn’t been addressed as much as it’s needed. The Astonishing Color of After helps! Resources are included towards the end of the book for various needs of those dealing with depression, loss, suicide and/or suicidal thoughts. The resources are categorized under the following headings: Suicide Prevention, For Suicide Loss Survivors and Understanding Mental Illness. The cultural education and coping skills made the story more interesting and I love Axel and the great friend that he is to Leigh and I appreciate the author’s honesty about her own experiences of being a suicide survivor. 4 stars!