Can an atheist be saved?
“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 has lost his faith. His family is in pieces after his younger brother committed suicide. His friends after turned their backs on him. He can’t find faith in the “It Gets Better” psychobabble, or the belief in an all-powerful creator who decides to let horrible things like this happen. It doesn’t matter what his born-again girlfriend says about faith and forgiveness, there’s no way he can forget what’s happened, and who made it happen. However, when something happens that plunges Matt to an even darker place, he starts to hear the rumble- the rumble that wakes him up, and calls everything he’s ever believed and disbelieved into question.
I will admit I have a huge bias toward Ellen Hopkins and her books- I have loved every single one of them, and have devoured them on sight. Novels in verse can be a very yes or no proposition for readers, Rumble was no exception. All of the feelings that Matthew goes through- the guilt, the animosity, the hurt- are so descriptive and poignant, they hit the reader deeply from the first pages. The fracturedness of his family during and after his brother’s suicide is painfully real, and his parents’ reactions to what happens is so painful and realistic all at the same time. The actions of his friends and not-friends are especially strong, and with the twists and turns within the book you have to read it a second time to see what you missed on the first go-round.
That it was straight upfront that everything was through Matthew’s eyes, and he was already pissed off at everything in the world, so you KNEW he was not going to be the most reliable narrator. He tries, and from his point of view everything he knows is what he knows, but there are SO MANY twists to everything that when his world unravels even more you realize how much his pent-up anger has caused friends to be pushed away. And how much betrayal has gone on behind his back.
The suddenness of the ending. There’s a final huge twist at the end that changes everything for Matt, and with everything that happens throughout the rest of the book, it seems to me that it’s just a little easy for him to take these changes in complete stride. I would have rather had a little more after than final climax to see how he’s going to deal with those things, or not had that final impact- it was almost one too many emotional impacts.
When Matt finally discovers who released his brother’s secret, and ultimately was responsible for the start of his bullying and suicide. It was such an unexpected flip that I dropped the book. Literally dropped the book. Then I had to scramble back to my page and finish it through to the ending, and then re-read to see if I had missed any clues.
I would put Rumble at ages 14 and up. It deals with bullying, suicide, faith, homosexuality, censorship, post traumatic stress disorder, and other topics in a way that makes readers think, and while I think that older/ more advanced middle school readers would be able to handle this book without a problem, I would definitely place it in a teen/YA collection.