Review By: Olubunmi
Book On Sale: Now!
Shaun David Hutchinson’s “The Apocalypse of Elena Mandoza” is a quirky work of art. The science-fiction YA novel creates a small world where anything can happen. Set in the small town of Arcadia, Florida, the story follows Elena Mendoza who is faced with the task of saving the entire world. While it’s tempting to jump straight into her endeavours, Elena definitely needs an introduction (her character profile is packed).
Elena Mendoza was born of parthenogenesis (her mother reproduced asexually to put it simply) and her birth has been ever the controversial topic to many. Religious individuals revere her like the Virgin Mary, secular individuals mock her and her mother. This has been the root of Elena’s bullying since she was in grade school. Elena has also been hearing voices since she was small. So when Elena, who is working at Starbucks, watches as her crush (Freddie Petrine) was shot, and hears the siren on the Starbucks logo tell her to heal her she does as she is told (though she’s not exactly sure of the technical details). From then on her life is turned upside down, from a talking tampon box to to people being raptured into the sky as she heals other people, Elena Mendoza is faced with pressing challenges.
The story itself enlists a diverse account of characters, ranging from Muslim to Cuban. Hutchinson packs complex characters into 436 pages that will make them think of what the author is really like. Elena has a sense of humor that touches from awkward to quirky to sarcastic in mere pages. She’s an off-beat protagonist with a caring heart and curious mind that I came to love. She doesn’t take simple answers, which adds depth to her character. The book houses unconventional relationships, and centers around the questions “Who deserves to live and die? What makes a person good or bad? Should they be given a chance based off of passed actions? Why or why not?” Hutchinson then addresses these topics in situations that are pretty relatable, like whether Elena’s ex-boyfriend deserves a second chance, or if her stepdad is a good person. The author speaks through the book and is saying that people are more complex than simple answers. I learned this through Elena’s decisions and thought processes.
It begs the question: What makes a life meaningful? And should that matter? Who dictates the criteria for what is important and what isn’t? Should that genuinely stop us from making certain decisions?
“The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza” is a novel that asks the reader to look inside themselves and ask the same questions Elena asks. With a diverse array of characters and a philosophical theme that mixes dashes of romance, comedy and a great deal of science-fiction, Shaun David Hutchinson writes a book everyone should read. It asks questions that challenges the reader to step back and contemplate the true meaning of good and bad. I found myself asking the questions to my friends and siblings. The truth is that people are complex. This book does an amazing job of displaying that and challenged not just my philosophy on life, but the characters too. I struggled along with Elena as she searched for answers, and I cried and laughed with her as well. Her character made me think of what Hutchinson was like if he could make a character as offbeat and unique as Elena. I fell in love with how the book occupied my mind and recommend it to any teenager willing to probe themselves for the same answers Elena does. With a critical look into the mind, I give this book five stars!