Book: Armageddon Summer

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Armageddon Summer

Author: Jane Yolen, Bruce Coville
Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books

The world will end on Thursday, July 27, 2000.

At least, that’s what Reverend Bilson has told his congregation.

Marina’s morn believes him. So does Jed’s dad. That’s why Marina and Jed join one-hundred and forty-two of the reverend’s congregation at a mountain retreat. From the mountaintop they will watch the Righteous Conflagration that will end this world, and then they will descend and begin the world anew.

But this world has only just begun for Jed and Marina, two teenagers who are uneasy about about the End of the World—as well as about faith and their parents. It’s not fair: Why should the world end now, when their lives are just starting—when they’ve just discovered love for the first time in their life?

Told in alternating chapters from both Jed’s and Marina’s points of view, this first-ever collaboration between two masters of children’s literature is an event not just because it is their first coauthored book, and not just because of the timeliness of the subject, but because of the timelessness of the story. In Armageddon Summer Jane Yolen and Bruce Coville have written a funny, harrowing, moving story about faith and friendship, love and loss, and the things that matter most at the end of world.


Armageddon Summer provides a front-row seat for the type of event most of us only witness on a TV screen. Reverend Raymond Beelson is gathering 144 “Believers” atop Mount Weeupcut in Massachusetts to camp out, pray, and await Armageddon—July 27, 2000—when he predicts that his faithful flock will be saved as the rest of the world is set ablaze in fire and brimstone. We experience the month leading up to this climax through the eyes of two teenagers who have never met before, Jed and Marina, each of whom have come to the compound out of a sense of responsibility toward their families. Young Jed is only on the mountain to watch over his father who “went a little crazy” after his wife left the family: “When my father told me that the world was going to end I figured he was making some sort of weird joke.” Jed’s sarcasm, humor, and flippancy toward the Believers does not erase the love he feels for his newly devout father, nor his capacity for empathy toward members of the congregation. Marina is a Believer, or so she tries to be, in the hope that somehow her faith will restore harmony to her family. She has traveled to the mountain with her younger brothers at her mother’s fervent insistence, but her fear that her father will remain below with the rest of the nonbelievers to burn alive unnerves her.

Coauthors Jane Yolen and Bruce Coville artfully sculpt the alternating voices and perspectives of Marina and Jed, and readers will be swept up in the thoughts and emotions of these complex young people. The skillful writing raises this novel above others—these characters are immensely believable as they struggle with matters of family and faith, while maintaining a smart, convincingly adolescent outlook. Excerpts from sermons, FBI files, camp schedules, and e-mails keep the story lively and suspenseful, as the Believers begin to stockpile weapons and the media adds fuel to the flames. But perhaps more resonant than the apocalyptic ending are the careful, distinct portraits of the two teens, thrust into a frightening situation that shuttles them suddenly into adulthood. (Ages 12 to 16) —Brangien Davis

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