Book Review: Rapture Practice by Aaron Hartzler

Book: Rapture Practice by Aaron Hartzler

Published by Little, Brown Books For Young Readers|400 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Non-Fiction/Memoir

What happens when the person you’re becoming isn’t the one your family wants you to be? 

When Aaron Hartzler was little, he couldn’t wait for the The Rapture: that moment when Jesus would come down from the clouds to whisk him and his family up to heaven. But as he turns sixteen, Aaron grows more curious about all the things his family forsakes for the Lord. He begins to realize he doesn’t want Jesus to come back just yet—not before he has his first kiss, sees his first movie, or stars in the school play.

Whether he’s sneaking out, making out, or playing hymns with a hangover, Aaron learns a few lessons that can’t be found in the Bible. He discovers that the girl of your dreams can just as easily be the boy of your dreams, and the tricky part about believing is that no one can do it for you.

In this funny and heartfelt coming-of-age memoir, debut author Aaron Hartzler recalls his teenage journey from devoted to doubtful, and the search to find his own truth without losing the fundamentalist family who loves him.

I can’t remember how I first heard about Rapture Practice- which, now that I think about, describes probably 99% of the books I wanted to read- but I was in the mood for non-fiction and a memoir, and it seemed interesting enough.

I was surprised that it’s a YA memoir.  I wasn’t expecting it, but looking back, it makes sense, considering it focuses on Hartzler’s life in high school.  It’s pretty easy to read, and it goes by pretty fast.  It did feel like I reading little snippets of his life, and while it tells a pretty linear, cohesive story, I wish it had gone into a little more depth.  I feel like he has a lot more of his to share but his high school years did give the book a certain focus.

I will say that there were points where I didn’t want to finish the book, and it was because of his parents.  I felt so angry at them for not being more open, and for how they treated Aaron.  I mean, I know he did rebel, and did things they didn’t want him to, but they were really, insanely strict.  When I hear someone describe themselves as a Christian, his parents are what immediately pop into mind.  I know not all Christians are like Hartzler’s parents, but they are what I associate with Christian.

Still, as frustrating as it was to read his parents, I am glad I read Rapture Practice.  It is a perspective that I don’t pay a lot of attention to, and even though I disagree with a lot of his parents beliefs, I’m still glad I read Rapture Practice.  I don’t know that I came away with a better understanding of why they believe what they do, but I can definitely relate to Hartzler starting to question his beliefs and faith.  Questioning ourselves, our beliefs and what our families believe is something I think we can all relate to, regardless of our faith (or lack of it).

I really wish there was some sort of afterword or epilogue or something where we get a little about about what happened after he graduated high school.  Some sort of conclusion would have been nice, but it did wrap things up pretty nicely.  Overall, I liked it, even though there were some things I wasn’t thrilled with, which I already talked about.

I felt for Aaron, and I can’t imagine having to sneak around to see ANY movie, or to hide listening to music because they’re not Christian enough.  One of the things I liked about the book was seeing him figure things out, and realizing that what he wanted to do and what he believed didn’t match up with what his parents believed.  I didn’t always agree with Aaron’s choices, but I can understand why he did what he did.  I had a much harder time doing that with his parents, but Aaron was definitely trying to figure things out for himself, which is a part of life.

3 stars.  I had some reservations about Rapture Practice, but it was an interesting read.

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Book Review: Every Falling Star by Sungju Lee and Susan Elizabeth McClelland

Book: Every Falling Star: The True Story Of How I Survived And Escaped North Korea by Sungju Lee and Susan Elizabeth McCelland

Published November 2016 by Harry N. Abrams|336 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Nonfiction/Memoir

Every Falling Star, the first book to portray contemporary North Korea to a young audience, is the intense memoir of a North Korean boy named Sungju who is forced at age twelve to live on the streets and fend for himself. To survive, Sungju creates a gang and lives by thieving, fighting, begging, and stealing rides on cargo trains. Sungju richly re-creates his scabrous story, depicting what it was like for a boy alone to create a new family with his gang, his “brothers”; to be hungry and to fear arrest, imprisonment, and even execution. This riveting memoir allows young readers to learn about other cultures where freedoms they take for granted do not exist.

I really liked Every Falling Star, and I’m glad I picked it up!  I feel like it’s rare to see YA Non-Fiction, and even though I know it’s something that’s out there, I don’t really read it or seek it out.  But this was worth reading, and in a lot of ways, it read like a novel.  Quite frequently, I forgot it was a memoir.

I don’t know anything about North Korea- I know they’ve come up a lot on the news a lot lately, but otherwise, my knowledge of them is virtually nonexistent.  I think this book is great look at what life is like in North Korea, and how not falling in line can change everything.

I can’t begin to imagine life on the streets and having to beg, steal and fight just to survive.  I am curious about what his father did in the military, and I get why he doesn’t talk about what happened, for fear of what would happen to his relatives still in North Korea.  It has to be bad if it puts them at risk, and they did have to leave where they were living because of it, but I am curious about what really happened.  To me, though, it seemed like his did something that would have been fine nearly anywhere else in the world.  It’s sad and horrifying what they’ll apparently do to people who don’t follow along and who aren’t compliant with what the government wants.

It’s hard to wrap my mind around that, and once again, it’s hard to imagine not knowing what happened to your family and friends, particularly friends who are considered family.  I hope his mother and friends are okay, and that one day, if it’s something he wants, he will learn what happened to him.  I doubt it, if the entire book is any indication, but one can hope.

It was interesting to see how much of a deity Kim Jong-Il was.  People had their own opinions, as we see in the book, but it’s amazing how much people believed in him and looked up to him.  It was definitely clear to me, while reading Every Falling Star, that you really had to be careful about what you said and did, because you never what happen if people thought you weren’t anything other than a model citizen.

Every Falling Star is an eye-opener, and though it’s YA, it’s one of those books that everyone should read.  You see how quickly Lee changed when he realized that not everyone is cared for, like he originally thought, and what it must be like for most people living in North Korea

4 stars.  I thought this book was a great read, and an insight into a country that most only hear about on the news.