The Apocalypse Of Elena Mendoza by Shaun David Hutchinson (YA Fantasy Novel, 2018).
Hutchinson has written anumber of well-received YA novels, as well as editing two anthologies in the genre. His latest portrays a modern-day Florida teen identified as the first person scientifically proved to have been born via parthenogenesis (hence, from a virgin mother). That has marked her as something special and led to her being an outcast, mocked by most of her peers.
But the cruel classmates who taunt her don’t know the half of it. Since childhood, she has been guided and influenced by telepathic voices from inanimate objects. Then comes the day when a kid she doesn’t know shoots down the girl Elena has had a long, secret crush on at the Starbucks where Elena works. The siren image (see the Starbucks logo) tells her she can heal the dying Winifred (known as Freddie). Terrified but desperate to help, Elena lays hands on the wound, closes her eyes and discovers she can, indeed, repair the injury. In the same instant, a beam of light shoots from the sky and the shooter vanishes without a trace.
Elena’s hands and the ground around them are soaked with Freddie’s blood, yet she now has no wound. This is the beginning of a thick, compelling book in which Elena tries to figure out what the hell she’s been sucked into–by voices that order her to save other ill, wounded, dying or otherwise afflicted, and thereby somehow “save the world” from an approaching apocalypse. But everytime she performs one of these miracles, increasing numbers of unrelated people are “raptured” like the shooter. The voices claim they’ve been taken to “a better place,” but how can Elena be certain?
Others disbelieve her (and the recovered Freddie’s) accounts of their experiences. And what might be worse is that shadowy people (government or otherwise) eventually do believe her. Will she be abducted and forced to use her newfound powers for dubious purposes? Mini spoiler: Yes! Does she have the right to decide who deserves help? And what about the other people, spirited away without warning or their consent? What about Freddie, whose life is not as great as Elena had imagined from afar and in moments of depression says she should’ve been allowed to die?
It’s a dark, Earthy and wrenching vision of teen life today, family conflicts and ethical problems. But it’s also a surehanded, exciting, occasionally funny and often touching, always interesting tale. I won’t ruin things with more spoilers, but will note the ending is both appropriate to what comes before and is world-changing and full of hopeful but not sappy potential.
In short, I very much enjoyed this book. Great for teens and younger adults, and for old farts like myself (I’m 59).