Posted by : Deborah Takahashi Friday, May 27, 2016

Plot Summary:
It's graduation night and Thomas' bags are packed and ready for boot camp. Like his father and his brother, Thomas is fulfilling his duty by joining the United State Army. The problem is that he doesn't want to go because he doesn't want to end up like his brother Jake. When Jake returned from Afghanistan, everyone greeted him with a hero's welcome. However, Jake isn't the courageous hero that everyone thinks he is. In fact, Jake is a ghost who hardly says a word, doesn't take care of himself, and always carries around a mysterious black backpack According to Thomas, Jake will never be the same and his parents refuse to recognize that he is a broken man. Before going to war, Thomas worshiped his brother and was excited to follow in his footsteps. Now, all Thomas can think about is running away and never looking back until Mallory backhands her boyfriend at the party they are at. Thomas and Mallory haven't spoken in two years and when she asks him for a ride home, Thomas reluctantly agrees. What should have been an easy trip turns into a highway pursuit that will kick start a series of events that will take him all over town that will eventually lead him back to why he and Mallory lost touch and uncover the demons that have been haunting Jake. In this riveting story about a teen who just wants some normalcy, he will finally break down the walls that have been separating him from his family and Mallory, which is anything by normal.

Critical Evaluation:
I was unbelievably impressed with this story. I literally blew through this book in one night and I can't express how important this subject matter is given today's political climate. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Combat Stress are, categorically, the most detrimental mental illness' that plague the men and women in the armed forces.One thing readers will learn is that mental illness does not effect just the person experiencing the disease, it effects the family unit as well. For Thomas, he knows his brother is not well and his parents refuse to acknowledge this fact. What's worse is that his own father, a Desert Storm veteran, is the reason why Jake is not receiving the medical treatment he needs. Unlike Jake, many vets prior to 9/11 experienced PTSD, but there was never a campaign to advocate for treatment. Although Jake and Thomas' father believes that Jake will be fine when he "snaps" out of it; in reality, he will continue to deteriorate if he doesn't receive the treatment he so desperately needs. Although Jake's mental illness is the only part of the story, Thomas' fears are very real because a lot of vets are coming home broken and lost. Aside from his family problems, there's Mallory who is also in a bit of a downward spiral as well. In theory, readers will discover that both Mallory and Thomas have one thing in common: they want to run away from their problems because they are afraid. Given the events of the night, it's nice to see that they have gathered up the courage to not only confront their problems, but deal with the consequences that may follow. Bottom line: these teenagers turned into adults overnight and this story leaves readers asking "what happens next?"

Information about the Author:
According to his website:
Bryan Bliss is the author of No Parking at the End Times. He holds master’s degrees in theology and fiction and – shockingly – found a professional job that allows him to use both of those degrees. His political philosophy degree, however, is still underutilized. His nonfiction has been published in Image Journal, along with various other newspapers, magazines, and blogs. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife and two children, both of whom wish he wrote books about dragons. Or wizards.
Genre:
Teen Contemporary Fiction, Teen Issues, Teen War Stories

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 9 & up

Books Similar to Meet Me Here:

  • The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • Something Like Normal by Trish Doller


Awards & Recognition:
From Amazon.com:

“Bliss keeps the pages turning with vivid, rich characters and weighty moments of self-discovery. With compassionate grace, Bliss plumbs the depths not only of Thomas’ heavy choices but also the impact of war on a personal level…Thoughtful, empathetic, and deeply stirring.” (Booklist (starred review))

“Bliss offers a well-crafted story about the people who come home from war damaged and the family members this affects. …A love story between brothers, the novel provides a touching glimpse of a different kind of courage.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Bliss’s novel address the push teens may feel after high school to do what is expected of them and not what they want…With a 24-hour intense timeframe and thoughtful discussion of PTSD, this title has elements of Cath Crowley’s Graffiti Moon and Trish Doller’s Something Like Normal.” (School Library Journal)

“Told over one night, Thomas’s story is both classic night-before-it-all-changes hijinks-parties, fighting, nostalgia, and unexpected friendships-and part darker, existential concerns connected to the realities of war. …The strong emotional impact will attract serious readers.” (Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA))

“Bliss presents another thoughtful and penetrating family drama. …through meaningful encounters with friends and family, Thomas gains a deeper understanding of sacrifice, the power of brotherhood and community, and just how fine the line between courage and fear can be.” (The Horn Book)

Praise for No Parking at the End Times:“Bliss’s debut explores family, sacrifice, and the power of everyday faith with a deft and sensitive hand.” (The Horn Book)

“Bliss has worked with teenagers, and it shows—his characters are not stereotypical ‘teens’ but human beings who must face and overcome unique problems. A fine debut.” (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

“This quietly powerful story of a young woman’s quest for deliverance in the face of parental failure, religious disillusionment, and self-doubt moved me deeply. I can’t wait to see what Bryan Bliss does next.” (Sara Zarr, author of National Book Award finalist Story of a Girl)

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Deborah Takahashi
Pasadena, CA, United States
My name is Deb and I am a Librarian who absolutely loves to read and recommend books to teen and tween readers. In this blog, you will find reviews on a variety resources ranging from books, movies, video games, and much more. Please feel free to leave any feedback, especially book recommendations!
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