I’ll tell you straight away that I love Shaun David Hutchinson’s writing and as such, I’m a bit of a fanboi. That being said, I loved The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza and felt that the author once again did an amazing job, with an intriguing (if not zany), unique plot and a cast of lovable, intertwined characters.
The blurb is as follows:
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.
Introducing Elena Mendoza
The book centers around a bisexual high school girl of Cuban descent named Elena Mendoza who was the product of a virgin birth (yes, really! It’s a scientific process called parthenogenesis where an offspring is born from an unfertilized egg) and because of it, she is often the target of ridicule at school, as many of the students call her “Mary”.
It’s also important to note that strange voices speak to Elena regularly, often coming from stuffed animals, corporate logos or from other inanimate objects (my favorites were baby Cthulu and the girl on the tampon box). Now nobody knows about the voices — Elena has kept them a secret from everyone around her, more or less ignoring them because what they’ve had to say in the past has never been really all that important — until the day when the apocalypse of Elena Mendoza began.
The Day the Apocalypse Begins
The story begins at Starbuck’s where Elena spots her crush Winifred (”Freddie”) Petrine sitting at a table. Elena’s best friend Fadil convinces her to walk over to Freddie’s table and talk to her. Working up her courage, Elena heads toward the table, but as she does, a boy from her high school draws a gun and shoots Freddie’s in the stomach.
Elena rushes over to her and out of the blue, the voices tell Elena to heal Freddie, that she has that ability. Elena, not quite believing the voices, places her hands on Freddie — and lo and behold, the bullet hole disappears and Freddie is indeed healed. But that’s not the only “miracle” that takes place. The moment Freddie is healed, a blinding flash of gold light comes down from the sky and sucks up the shooter. In other words, he was raptured up.
Choices that Impact Humanity
From that moment on, the voices grow more insistent and prevalent (as well as irreverent), as they encourage Elena to go out into the world and heal more people — or else the world will end.
But as she soon learns, all is not “love and light.” There appears to be a hefty price to pay for what she is doing, and she begins to question whether that price is worth paying.
It’s also during this time Elena begins to wonder (as does the reader) whether the voices truly have humanity’s best interest in mind, even though they insist their goal is to save the world. Hell, we don’t even know who or what they are.
The Character of Elena
The story is told from the first-person point of view of Elena, and I loved her character. I also appreciated the fact that she was a sure-of-herself girl who had no heart-wrenching coming-out issues to deal with. She knew who exactly she was and was not afraid to stand her ground when necessary.
As such, Elena is a strong, likable and dynamic character who has to struggle with making a very difficult decision, one that could impact the entire world. I think that the author handled her dilemma in a new and interesting way, especially once Elena decides on the route she’s going to take. I was truly impressed.
Excellent Secondary Characters (mostly)
The characterizations are excellent in this book and the author not only brings all of the characters vividly to life, but he makes the reader care about them. The secondary characters, Freddie and Fadil, were well-fleshed out and like all of us, were messy, confused, complex and insecure people. In this way, all of the secondary characters are colorful, realistic, well-drawn, and add to the impact of this book.
Being human, they all made mistakes which added to their completeness. But in spite their shortcomings and “humanness,” they are a positive force in Elena’s life — even her ex Javi (who in the past consistently tried to get Elena into bed) ended up redeeming himself as the story progressed.
I liked that the relationship between Freddie and Elena was complicated and enjoyed seeing them both grow as characters. In fact, all of the characters in the book went through significant changes throughout the story, a sign of the adeptness of the author.
The one exception is Sean, the deadbeat dad who though was mostly harmless, eventually crossed the line, but I felt that his character was handled well by the author. He outlined the complexity of Sean’s relationship with Elena’s mother and her kids, making us realize that situations are not always as black and white as they may seem.
Those Darn Voices
I have to say that the voices at times were hilarious, even though we had to decide, as a reader, whether or not to trust them, as they were usually quite vague about what was going on and tended to evade Elena’s questions. But that aside, I found them to be a side-splitting at times, and I loved the snappy banter between them and Elena, as they harassed her more and more via the inanimate objects around her.
It Does Tackle Some Serious Issues
The author wasn’t afraid to tackle some difficult issues in the book: teenage shooters, identity, depression, bullying, domestic abuse, suicidal thoughts and making life-altering choices; but he did so with finesse. He also showed us the importance of finding the courage to speak out, even if things may not turn out the way we hope. I felt that Hutchinson managed to confront these sensitive topics with deftness and aplomb.
This was a fresh, compelling and unique story that was a delight to read and hooked me from the get-go. Sean David Hutchinson has a knack for grabbing me from the first page and keeping you interested until the last — he certainly knows how to capture a reader’s attention.
I loved this off-the-wall book with its lovable characters and fresh, mysterious plot. This was a moving tale that gives the reader plenty to think about afterward. The ending left me satisfied and happy that I came across this beautifully written novel. This is another 5-star read for me. Recommended!
You can check out the Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza HERE