After Rooney’s mom loses her job and dedicates herself to Departure prep, Rooney tries to keep her family afloat as she enters her senior year of high school.
Per her mom’s insistence, Rooney learns more about the Next World Society’s mission to leave Earth on Nov. 17 for a planet free of humanity’s environmental disasters. All of this serves to highlight that Rooney can’t rely on her mom in the here and now. In her desperation, she reaches out to her estranged father, who now wants custody of her and her little brother, Daniel. Meanwhile, Daniel begins to show an interest in the cult, and Rooney finds herself more alone than before. The aftermath of Departure day leaves the NWS in tatters, and Rooney and Daniel face an uncertain future—although fortunately they receive help from Rooney’s teacher Mrs. Fisher, a Ghanaian immigrant. In her weighty debut, van Dam weaves an emotionally charged tale of betrayal, broken familial bonds, and redemption. Crucially, the author succeeds at zeroing in on Rooney’s love for her brother and her resentment toward her mother. This focus, however, falters at times thanks to a lukewarm, predictable romance between Rooney and her best friend, Mercer. Aside from Mrs. Fisher and some racially diverse NWS members, Rooney, her family, and Mercer are all presumably white.
A strong portrait of family dynamics. (Fiction. 12-18)