I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Rumble by Ellen Hopkins
Also by this author: Crank, Glass, Fallout
Published by Simon and Schuster on 2014-08-26
Genres: Homosexuality, Religious, Social Issues, Stories in Verse, Young Adult
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Can an atheist be saved? The New York Times bestselling author of Crank and Tricks explores the highly charged landscapes of faith and forgiveness with brilliant sensitivity and emotional resonance.There is no God, no benevolent ruler of the earth, no omnipotent grand poobah of countless universes. Because if there was...my little brother would still be fishing or playing basketball instead of fertilizing cemetery vegetation. Matthew Turner doesnt have faith in anything. Not in familyhis is a shambles after his younger brother was bullied into suicide. Not in so-called friends who turn their backs when things get tough. Not in some all-powerful creator who lets too much bad stuff happen. And certainly not in some It Gets Better psychobabble. No matter what his girlfriend Hayden says about faith and forgiveness, theres no way Matts letting go of blame. Hes decided to live large and go out with a huge bang, and whatever happens happens. But when a horrific event plunges Matt into a dark, silent place, he hears a rumble a rumble that wakes him up, calling everything hes ever disbelieved into question.
I am really into books written in verse and that is thanks to Ellen Hopkins and her Crank trilogy. I know that at first I was skeptical as to how much of an impact a verse book would have compared to a prose book. I am a True Believer in verse books now though. When a copy of Hopkins’s latest book, Rumble, arrived in my mail I was so excited. I was excited because it was on a topic that I could really relate to, losing your faith. I mean, I can’t relate to drugs or prostitution, but I can totally relate to going from being religious to being not-so-religious. Yet, Rumble goes a little deeper than the whole question of having faith vs. being faithless. Overall, I personally thought this was a really good book until the ending which totally goes off the rails.
Matthew Turner has lost all faith after his younger brother, freshman basketball star Luke, commits suicide after he was bullied so much for being gay. Matthew’s family is in pieces, his dad is an alcoholic and a workaholic, whereas his mom just seems super distant and totally not into his dad at all. Matthew’s girlfriend, Hayden, seems to be pulling away and getting more and more into the whole church thing. Meanwhile, Matt writes this essay for class about why god has no place in the government and well, his essay seems to be spreading like wildfire because all kinds of people are concerned about him. So, to sort through these issues, Matt sees a therapist, who plays a bit of a role in the book. He also goes shooting at his Uncle Jesse’s shooting range. FYI, Uncle Jesse is a war veteran.
So, I have to admit that Matt does some reprehensible things in this book. First off, he’s quite controlling of Hayden. I mean, he gets mad when she hangs out with her friends, when she interacts with her pastor, when she’s involved with church, when she doesn’t text him fast enough. It’s actually really unhealthy and not at all endearing. Which okay, I guess it’s good that we have such a deeply flawed main character, it makes him more real. Matt is also pretty belligerent about his atheist status and gets kind of mean to people who are True Believers. Granted, some of his anger is well deserved, especially towards the people who went around saying shit about homosexuality being an abomination.
But, despite Matt’s flaws, I still rooted for him. I still saw that Rumble‘s main character was someone who has experienced extreme trauma and who really needs serious support and help. And yet, even after his brother’s death, his life still keeps falling apart, what with his family and friends and girlfriend and all. So, Matt internalizes his brother’s suicide and places a large amount of blame on himself. And really, that blame is what colors this entire book and his essay too.
Interspersed with the free verse are snippets of Matt’s essay about why god should have no part in the government because of god’s non-existence. I loved Matt’s essay and found myself nodding along with all his paragraphs and agreeing with it. I mean, it’s bullshit to force your religion on someone. I liked how the majority of this book dealt with religion and how it went to a brave place, criticizing the hypocrisy of pious people who turn around and act hateful toward people who are different from them. It really goes into how judgmental certain people can be in their religion and I loved that. However, I have to admit, that while I thought this book was going so great and while I thought that we were getting this awesome examination of a young man who can’t find it in him to believe in god because of the questions he has and the terrible circumstances life handed him, I thought this entire point was invalidated by the title event, the Rumble.
What the hell. I thought this book was going to be about someone who is atheist and who actually questions faith, not about someone who has some near-death experience and then totally changes their mind. Like, the end of this book went off the rails. I don’t know. I guess I am so stuck on the ending and the change in events that it’s hard for me to be fair when looking at Rumble on the whole because I feel kind of betrayed by the last 20 or so pages. It’s like the book was going in this great, interesting and unique direction, then BAM, it takes a conventional sort of route and doesn’t really add anything different or new to examinations of religion in YA. I mean, I thought this was going to be one of those books that was going to say, hey it’s okay to be atheist and not believe in the afterlife. But no, it just treads familiar ground with that ending where Matt’s belief is ultimately influenced by his contrived near death experience. Seriously, what a let down.