In Robbins’ Christian-themed dystopian YA novel, a Portland, Oregon, teenager relies on her faith in God to help her escape the country.
Sarah Martinez lives in a dystopian America policed by an army that, among other things, enforces a ban on publicly displaying or distributing Bibles. Sarah’s allergy to a sleep-replacement drug, Ampheine, has made her a loner, as eight hours of sleep is now seen as a sign of laziness. So it’s unusual when Justin singles her out at a dance club and mildly disturbing when he tells Sarah that she’ll see him again—and not to worry when she does. However, her future sightings of Justin and his friend, Thaddeus, aren’t bad, especially after the latter helps her evade a menacing band of leather-clad, blue-haired “burnouts.” Justin later explains he and Thaddeus are servants of God, there to escort Sarah out of the United States before a devastating missile strike in 30 days. Justin tells her that she’s the “last believer”—“the last person in your country to place your faith in God.” Sarah’s uncertain of her new status, even if her grandmother’s Bible is her most prized possession. But she packs her bags for an arduous journey of many miles, during which she encounters assorted burnouts aligned with “the Enemy.” Though Robbins’ Christian tale is generally overt in its expressions of Christian faith (as when Sarah calms herself with prayer), it uses subtlety to good effect—never specifying, for example, who the burnouts work for. There’s a definite feeling of anticipation as Sarah counts down the days to the attack. The protagonist’s genuineness makes her progressively more likable as the story goes on, as she readily acknowledges her flaws and expresses guilt over “doing the wrong thing.” Nevertheless, skeptical readers looking for straightforward answers may be frustrated; according to Justin, anything unclear in the Bible is “exactly as clear as it’s supposed to be. You have all the information you need, and you’re not going to get any more.”
An often engaging religious thriller thanks to a tense, ticking-clock narrative and levelheaded protagonist.