Review: Vivian Versus the Apocalypse and Vivian Versus America by Katie Coyle

Have you read the Vivian Apple books by Katie Coyle? Can you go and do it now, please? Thanks.

Wait, you want more information? People are so difficult to please. Here’s what you need to know: Vivian Apple has a pretty serious problem. The Church of America, a shady religious group led by Beaton Frisk, seems to be taking over the world. Her parents have disappeared, along with a significant number of the US population, in the Rapture, and everyone left behind only has the impending apocalypse to look forward to. So, what does Vivian do? Does she mope around? Does she adopt the teachings of the Book of Frick herself and await the promised ‘Second Boat’? No, Vivian does not do any of these things; she grabs her badass best friend Harp and sets off on a dangerous yet hilarious road trip across the USA to take down the Church, find out what really happened to her parents and maybe hook up with a hottie as well. That’s the premise of the first book (Vivian Versus the Apocalypse); to say anything about the second would be to spoil the whole thing, so just believe me when I say both books are awesome.

The end of the world is generally seen as a bit of a drag; obviously, Vivian isn’t exactly ecstatic at the prospect of crazy hurricanes and food shortages, but she and Harp have the kind of inspiring, can-do attitude which I like in my apocalypse survivors. They’re also both extremely funny and Coyle has, rather ingeniously, infused their adventure with just enough danger to make the story exciting, while at the same time making it all sound really, really fun. If a mad fundamentalist church took over my country, I would use these two books as a blueprint for how to respond. Not that Vivian starts off as this much of a hero; at the outset, she’s meek and terrified and generally unprepared to take on a massive, shady religious organisation. Pretty soon, however, she’s a sledgehammer-wielding legend and I want her to be my friend.

Here are some other things I like about these books; each one is about 300 pages long, which is basically the perfect length, especially when the balance between pacy storytelling and enthralling character development is as good as it is here. Coyle is also razor-sharp in skewering the extreme right of Christianity in a way that’s on point in terms of satire but knowing rather than vicious. Some of her characters show a more moderate and cuddly form of religion, showing a viable alternative to the “Magdalening” and harassment evinced by the Church of America, so these are books which expose a certain kind of religious mania, rather than slating Christianity as a whole. It’s all really clever.

I’d never heard of these books until a couple of weeks ago when I stumbled upon a blog that mentioned them, and I’m so glad I did; Coyle has a voice that’s really different and refreshing, and a story that gives the end of the world a humorous spin. Go and read them now.

Just for reference, I’m in the UK so I read the UK editions; for some reason which I don’t understand, the US editions are called Vivian Apple at the End of the World and Vivian Apple Needs a Miracle. My research tells me they are actually the same books though.

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