Updated: Jan 20, 2019
Thanks to Scholastic for providing an advance copy of Come November for review purposes.
Humans deal with trauma in various ways, with some being more altruistic than others. As the next generation in our rapidly evolving world, we have been “given” the responsibility to separate the fact from the occult, and Marina wrestles with this as her family and social life teeters on edge.
Marina’s mother is a member of the Next World Society, a surprisingly diverse group of individuals who believe that the world is heading towards inevitable destruction as a result of human irresponsibility in industry, foresting, and ethics in general. The NWS’s main event they prepare for is the Departure, a period of time on November 17th during which they will board a spaceship heading for the Next World. Although this sounds ridiculous to an outsider, the NWS has attracted a large following, particularly from individuals who have endured trauma or conflict. It quite literally provides an escape from the world, and the immersion that the NWS enforces through fellowship and Harmonization, a meditation-like process in which the energies of the members are collected and synchronized, only increases the spell that the NWS has bound on these people.
All teenagers go through a period of coming of age- learning and it is a recurring theme in multiple YA novels. But the amalgam of social insecurity with familial instability, all wrapped up with a heaping serving of adolescent angst is what makes Marina’s character stand out among the other YA coming-of-age novels. The author artfully shows us her perspective without stirring up too much pity or cynicism within the reader. The dreams that Marina has of Columbia University and becoming a writer are matched almost harshly with her blunt take on life. She almost drops out of high school in order to work full time at a coffee shop and support her family. The themes and messages that are explored in this ingenious novel are touching and stunning, only heightened by the delicate word choice used.
As an elder sister, it was refreshing to see Marina’s relationship with her younger brother Daniel as a major plot point of the story. Daniel represents childlike innocence and dependence matched with curiosity and uncanny wisdom, and his character arc serves as a masterful counterpoint to Marina’s progression. The caring and compassion that Marina has for her brother is a valuable tool when a major change occurs in his personal life, causing Marina to question her beliefs. It was novel to see the innocent young child trope used as an intelligent plot device rather than a sideline sob story, and it truly shows van Dam’s skilled in storytelling.
In all, Come November was a controlled rollercoaster of emotions, matching the washed out coming of age clichés with a unexpected and well executed conflict and plot, resulting in a story that you won't be able to put down. Every chapter was well paced, never delving into too much detail or leaving out important answers to gnawing questions. I could almost see this book having a sequel that focused on the lives of the other characters who were briefly mentioned and used mostly as the lights to shine on the main character, so I almost wish the book was a little longer. But the author did not sacrifice the main plotline and finished with a fantastic story about adolescence, truth, and family.
Score: 7.5 out of 10
It's not the end of the world, but for Rooney Harris it's starting to feel that way. It's the beginning of senior year, and her mom just lost her job. Even worse, she isn't planning to get another one. Instead, she's spending every waking moment with a group called the Next World Society, whose members are convinced they'll be leaving Earth behind on November 17. It sounds crazy to Rooney, but to her mother and younger brother it sounds like salvation. As her mom's obsession threatens to tear their lives apart, Rooney is scrambling to hold it all together. But will saving her family mean sacrificing her dreams -- or theirs?
COME NOVEMBER is available for purchase now and can be purchased via Amazon here.