Review: The Last Days of California

The Last Days of California
The Last Days of California
By Mary Miller
(Liveright Publishing Corporation, Hardcover, 9780871405883, January 2014, 256pp.)

The Short of It:

Probably one of the best coming-of-age novels I’ve read in a long while.

The Rest of It:

Fourteen-year-old Jess and her family, including her older, pregnant sister Elise, set out from Alabama to California right before the Rapture. Their mission? To save as many souls along the way as possible. As they travel from town to town, handing out their pamphlets to anyone who will take them, it becomes obvious to the girls that their father has lost his job (again) and that there really isn’t money for a trip across the country. Plus, the parents are clueless about their own daughter’s pregnancy and Jess finds herself in a position to protect her sister’s secret for as long as possible.

I loved this family. For all of their faults, they are a family in the biggest sense of the word. As they head out on this road trip, it’s clear that things are at stake. Life, as they know it could be changed forever after the Rapture but Jess and Elise are not convinced of that. They want to believe, but at the same time, they have their doubts.

Because of these doubts, they test the waters a bit. Hanging out with boys, drinking and smoking and basically experimenting as kids are known to do. But what makes it different for them is that they don’t know if the world will exist by the time they get to California. Will they be one of the saved ones? As they stop along the way, they meet people and have experiences that change who they are and in the process, they come to terms with their beliefs.

Books can be such a personal thing but I LOVED this book. I loved the family, the girls (with all of their faults) and the road trip, yes… I love road trips and reading this book was like jumping in the car and taking off for an adventure. I could easily have been their long-lost cousin hiding in the trunk. I FELT as if I was with them every time they stopped for gas and horribly processed snack foods. And every time they jumped into a motel pool, I could literally smell the chlorine.

This was such a great read. It gave me a lot to think about and it took me out of my world and right into theirs. I read it in just a couple of sittings and if you are worried about the religious parts, don’t. It’s not heavy-handed in any way. As Jess contemplates life, you can’t help but fall in love with her as a person.

To truly appreciate it, you must read it for yourself. I’m sure it will be on my list of favorites for 2014.

Source: Sent to me by the publisher.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

25 thoughts on “Review: The Last Days of California”

  1. This will be popping up on the Bloggers Recommend website this week. I’ll confess that I had not heard of it until then, but both the blurb and your review makes me wish I had been smart enough to snatch up a copy. Ah well. One more for the “I really want to read it someday” pile.

    1. Initially I picked it up because of it being set in California. I love to read books about my home state but they didn’t even get there! LOL. I love road trips and this book embodied the road trip experience perfectly.


  2. Definitely would not have picked this one up based on the description or the cover, but your passion for it has me convinced. It is on the list. I’m going to see if I can find it on audio, since apparently that is the only way I can get through a book these days.

    1. My audio books have been calling my name but I listen to them while walking and that hasn’t been happening lately. I really need to start doing it again.

      You will like this book. I hope it plays out well on audio.


  3. Your review makes me want to run out and buy this book. It helps that I’m a huge fan of road trips, just love them. I read about this book a couple of weeks ago and have had it on my radar since because of the road trip storyline and the sisters who I liked the sound of. So I’m thrilled to read such a positive, loving review. I think the little bit of religious theme adds some interest to this book, too. I will definitely be reading this sometime soon

    1. I enjoyed the road trip aspect quite a bit but I also enjoyed the closeness that the sisters shared. Yes, they had the typical sibling stuff going on but they watched out for each other too.


    1. I know! I find that my best books seem to be read at the top of the year. I think it’s because I have more time to read them AND I spend more time figuring out what to read.


  4. I’m glad you said the religion part was not very heavy-handed because that’s exactly what I was going to ask! Sounds interesting now 🙂 I don’t mind religion in books as long as it is not a preachy book.

  5. I am glad you said the religion in the book was not heavy-handed. That’s exactly what I was going to ask. Sounds interesting now 🙂 I don’t mind religion in fiction as long as it is not preachy.

    1. Besides them handing out pamphlets and the girls questioning their beliefs, it’s rarely mentioned. It sort of lurks over them all throughout the book but quietly, off to the side.


  6. Sounds great. Love a good coming of age and an apocalypse! (Reminds me of Buffy). Anyway, saw this on a PW picks and was intrigued. Now it’s top of TBR! Thanks.

  7. Oh good to hear such positive things. I’ve seen this one. Will add it to my TBR. Like the title too. Nice review

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