Book Review: The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun David Hutchinson

The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun David Hutchinson
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: AmazonTBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: February 6, 2018
Source: Borrowed

Sixteen-year-old Elena Mendoza is the product of a virgin birth.

This can be scientifically explained (it’s called parthenogenesis), but what can’t be explained is how Elena is able to heal Freddie, the girl she’s had a crush on for years, from a gunshot wound in a Starbucks parking lot. Or why the boy who shot Freddie, David Combs, disappeared from the same parking lot minutes later after getting sucked up into the clouds. What also can’t be explained are the talking girl on the front of a tampon box, or the reasons that David Combs shot Freddie in the first place.

As more unbelievable things occur, and Elena continues to perform miracles, the only remaining explanation is the least logical of all—that the world is actually coming to an end, and Elena is possibly the only one who can do something about it.

I have previously read three of Shaun David Hutchinson’s novels with varying results. We Are the Ants was an easy five stars for me. I could have cried while reading it. The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley? Four stars. The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried? One of my most anticipated books of 2019 and, really, kind of a disappointment.

If I’m being honest, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to read The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza. I’d seen really mixed reviews when it first came out, I remember seeing people yelling (in a bad way) about the trans rep, and then there were all of the reviews that screamed “BUT NOTHING ACTUALLY HAPPENS.” Well, I’ll tell you what. I enjoyed this. I enjoyed it a lot.

There’s some definite social commentary here. Elena makes frequent (negative) references to the current president of the United States. There are discussions about the right to choose, not necessarily with regard to abortion, but just in general. When Elena learns that she has the ability to heal people, she has a bit of a crisis about whether she should really be playing god. This is exactly what I expect when I read one of Hutchinson’s books, and I was so happy to find it here.

As for the story, I thought it was really interesting. Elena doesn’t have a father, and she doesn’t mean that in the usual “my dad is a deadbeat and left when I was little” way. As the product of a virgin conception, scientifically known as parthenogenesis, she literally has no father. This has had little bearing on her life, aside from a lot of teasing from her classmates, until she suddenly learns that she’s capable of performing miracles.

I’m not going to get into all of that for fear of spoilers, so instead, I want to talk about the subtle diversity of this book. Elena is a bisexual Cuban girl. Her main love interest is Freddie, a girl she’s had a crush on forever. Elena’s ex-boyfriend, Javi, is a fairly main character, and nobody makes any sort of deal over her having an ex-boyfriend and now pursuing a girl. Elena’s best friend, Fadil, is Muslim and in the process of figuring out his own sexuality. Since none of the characters made a big deal out of this and all of this diversity was woven very seamlessly into the story, it never felt like flashing lights and ringing alarms screaming, “HEY, GUYS, DID YOU NOTICE SHE’S BI?!?” It just existed.

And also, that thing about bad trans rep? There’s like one sentence in this entire book and it’s one character saying something like, “Hey, how is [male name]?” And another character being like, “Actually, she goes by [female name] now.” How anybody found anything to hate in that is beyond me.

So, yes, this book is basically about Elena deciding what to do once she finds out that she can heal people. I suppose I can see how some people might consider that “not much of a plot.” I really enjoyed it, though, and I hope to read At the Edge of the Universe after I take a little SDH break.

Have you read The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza? Is it on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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ARC review: The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried by Shaun David Hutchinson

The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried by Shaun David Hutchinson

Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: February 19, 2019
Source: ARC via Netgalley

A good friend will bury your body, a best friend will dig you back up.

Dino doesn’t mind spending time with the dead. His parents own a funeral home, and death is literally the family business. He’s just not used to them talking back. Until Dino’s ex-best friend July dies suddenly—and then comes back to life. Except not exactly. Somehow July is not quite alive, and not quite dead.

As Dino and July attempt to figure out what’s happening, they must also confront why and how their friendship ended so badly, and what they have left to understand about themselves, each other, and all those grand mysteries of life.

Okay, here we go. I have some conflicting feelings about this book and I’m going to try to figure out how to describe them.

Shaun David Hutchinson is one of my favorite YA authors. I absolutely loved We Are the Ants (it was an easy five stars for me) and I thought that The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley was pretty amazing too (four stars). It’s possible that my expectations were a little bit too high because, while I feel like the writing was good, overall, I was pretty disappointed.

The biggest thing for me was that I felt no connection to either of the main characters.

I should have loved Dino. He’s just lost his best friend. He was fighting with her when she died, so he’s heartbroken. He’s in this new relationship with a great guy and he doesn’t quite know how to process all of his emotions. His father is pushing him into the family business when he really has no interest in it. These are all things that should have made me love him and want to protect him from everything bad in the world. Instead, I just felt like I was watching everything that happened to him from a distance.

July… she really could have gone either way for me. She’s prickly, she’s offensive (sometimes on purpose, sometimes on accident), and she doesn’t really care about whether she makes a good impression. That’s a love-it-or-hate-it kind of character. But I never felt anything much for her, like or dislike, except for when she’d make an inappropriate joke and I’d just be kind of annoyed. I didn’t care about her and I didn’t care about her feud with Dino.

The death aspect is interesting, but was it particularly well-executed? I don’t know. I feel like there was supposed to be some kind of point to it, but we kind of danced around it and then the book just ended. I’m making this book sound like it’s terrible and I promise it’s not. I’m just very disappointed because I expect such great things from this author.

I still have a couple backlist books by Hutchinson that I’m really looking forward to reading. I’m just hoping that they’ll be more in line with what I’ve read from him previously.

#ps19: a book that includes a wedding

Have you read The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried? Is it on your TBR? Let’s talk in the comments!

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Top Ten Tuesday: New-to-me authors of 2018

Happy Top Ten Tuesday! Today’s theme is new-to-me authors of 2018 and I have to say, I think it’s going to be a little difficult to narrow this down to ten.

Shaun David Hutchinson

my reviewmy review

Alice Clayton


my review

Jenn Bennett

my reviewmy reviewmy review

Sarah J. Maas

my reviewmy review
my reviewmy review

Emma Hart

my reviewmy review

Jay Kristoff

my reviewmy reviewmy review

Tara Sivec

my reviewmy reviewmy review

Maggie Stiefvater

my reviewmy review
my reviewmy review


my review

Brian K. Vaughan

see all my Saga reviews here!

Erin Hahn


my review will be posted closer to publication!

Did you do your own Top Ten Tuesday post today? Feel free to leave your link in the comments and I’ll check it out! Have you read any of these books? Who’s the best author that you read for the first time in 2018? Let’s talk in the comments!

Book review: We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

⭐ Goodreads ⭐ Amazon ⭐

Henry Denton has spent years being periodically abducted by aliens. Then the aliens give him an ultimatum: The world will end in 144 days, and all Henry has to do to stop it is push a big red button.

Only he isn’t sure he wants to.

After all, life hasn’t been great for Henry. His mom is a struggling waitress held together by a thin layer of cigarette smoke. His brother is a jobless dropout who just knocked someone up. His grandmother is slowly losing herself to Alzheimer’s. And Henry is still dealing with the grief of his boyfriend’s suicide last year.

Wiping the slate clean sounds like a pretty good choice to him.

But Henry is a scientist first, and facing the question thoroughly and logically, he begins to look for pros and cons: in the bully who is his perpetual one-night stand, in the best friend who betrayed him, in the brilliant and mysterious boy who walked into the wrong class. Weighing the pain and the joy that surrounds him, Henry is left with the ultimate choice: push the button and save the planet and everyone on it…or let the world—and his pain—be destroyed forever.

Grief is an ocean, and guilt the undertow that pulls me beneath the waves and drowns me.

The last book I read by Shaun David Hutchinson was The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley. It knocked me over with the intense emotions and I could hardly put it down. Let’s just say the same thing happened here. You should see my notes while I was reading this book.

  • “I’m going to start crying. Sobbing. I can’t.”
  • “I just want to hug Henry.”
  • “I hate Marcus. I hate him so much.”
  • “I can’t cope with this.”
  • “I love Shaun David Hutchinson.”

I honestly don’t know how Hutchinson does it. He has this way of writing characters that tear my heart out. First Andrew Brawley and now Henry Denton (and, hey, let’s just include Diego Vega, too) — I just want to protect them with everything that I have. Every character in this book was well-developed. This book is about alien abductions and yet everything felt so realistic.

I don’t give a lot of books five stars. To be honest, I usually don’t go higher than four since I reserve five-star ratings for those few books that absolutely blow me away. But this book absolutely blew me away. I can’t give it anything less than five stars. It was so good.

You can’t live in the past. You can only visit.

Final rating: ★★★★★

Book review: The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley by Shaun David Hutchinson

Goodreads ⭐ Amazon ⭐

Seventeen-year-old Andrew Brawley lives in the hospital. It’s not that he’s sick, but after the tragic death of his parents and younger sister, he can’t bring himself to leave. So he sleeps in an abandoned room, gets a job in the cafeteria, and spends his free time visiting patients and talking to nurses.  Drew’s life is all about the routine until Rusty McHale is wheeled into the ER. Half of Rusty’s body is burned and Drew feels an unstoppable need to save him. But saving Rusty is even more difficult than it looks when Death roams the halls of the hospital and Drew isn’t supposed to exist.

Honestly, I don’t even know why I read this book. I was all set for a lazy Saturday in bed when a Tweet showed up about how this book was available to read on Riveted. I’d heard of the site, but I never knew that you could actually read full-length published books for free on Riveted. Now I know! Anyway, I checked out the reviews (glowing) and read the description (heartbreaking) and for some reason, decided this book would be a good way to torture myself.

And I think torturing myself is probably the aptest description of how I felt while reading this book. It’s emotional in a very understated way and despite being very hard to read at times, I could not put it down and ended up reading the entire book in one day.  The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley was my first book by Shaun David Hutchinson and if his writing here is any indication of what his other books are like, I hope it won’t be my last.

One thing I do want to bring up is that I’ve noticed Goodreads lists this book as romance. I’d beg to differ. While there’s certainly some attraction between Drew and Rusty, it takes a backseat to their struggle to overcome their own personal issues.  Both of them know that they need to do some serious soul-searching before even thinking about a relationship. There’s not even an inkling of romance curing all ills, which I so appreciated.

Really, this book was such a pleasant surprise. I’m now going to be obsessively refreshing Riveted every week (and adding myself to my library’s wait list for We Are the Ants).

Final rating: ★★★★☆

#mm18: diversify your reading