This review contains SPOILERS. It’s near impossible to talk about what I like and dislike about this novel without going into some details.
No Parking at the End Times was the podcast’s featured novel a month or two ago. I promptly put the novel on hold at my local library and forgot about it.
This book was sold to me based off of the premise. Contemporary teen is not my go to genre, but this book caught my eye. It follows a teenage girl and her family who have given up everything to relocate to San Francisco. They’ve joined a Church (a cult) run by a man calling himself Brother John. The soul message of this Church is that the world is going to end. Our book takes place AFTER the world was supposed to end but didn’t.
I’ve always had a morbid fascination with cults and new religious movements. I even went as far as taking a few courses in university, which specifically focused on breaking down the type of environment and people needed for an offshoot like this to form. As I read this novel I realized that Bryan Bliss had probably read a lot of the same books and papers I found myself skimming through (UPDATE: turns out Bliss has a Masters degree in theology, never would have guessed that). With all this in mind, when the book finally came in I finished it over the course of two days.
No Parking was okay. The story was okay, the characters were okay, everything was just okay. There was nothing wrong with it. I read it I finished it and that was about it.
The novel just kind of exists. It skims over it’s plot, people react to things and then it ends. No Parking has the makings of a really interesting book, and would have been if Bliss had stopped and given the reader more information on his character’s situations. I wish he had gone into more information on Brother John and his Church. Does Brother John truly believe in what he’s preaching or is he scamming his congregation? Abigail mentions off hand at one point that she finds something about him off, but she can’t place what it is. What makes Brother John’s brand of Doomsday Cult so interesting and special? We never know. It leaves the reader to bring their own personal beliefs and biases to interpret the text. Does it ever condemn religion as a whole? Not really. Abigail spends the majority of the novel questioning her faith, but not because she’s questioning the existence of a God, instead she doesn’t feel like she can connect to God through Brother John’s Church.
This book left me with a lot of questions. The ending of the novel is rushed, leaving the the reader with a forced ambiguous ending. No Parking ended just when the novel was getting interesting. I wanted to know what would happen to our main family? Would they finally be able to come back together? What about their Father, would he be able to survive post-Brother John? You can’t come out of an experience like that totally ready to move on with your life? What would happen to the rest of the members of the Church? What would happen to Brother John? What about Aaron and his girlfriend.
You see. Lot’s of questions.
The ending of the novel felt rushed and contrived. Bliss needed to do something to give Abigail’s Father a chance to leave the Church and Aaron being injured was the easy out. It felt forced. It also didn’t do much to give our main character’s parents an arc. They’re pretty two dimensional through the entire book.
Overall No Parking at the End Times was an okay read. Other than the rushed ending there was nothing wrong with the novel. It just wasn’t that memorable.