“There was once a time when only God knew the day you’d die.
At least that’s what they tell me. I wasn’t alive then — back when life bore adventure and death held surprise. I guess God decided to share the coveted knowledge. Either that, or we stole it from Him. Personally, I think He just gave the world what it thought it wanted: control.
My thin rectangular Clock sits on the carved shelf across the room, clicking its red digital numbers — red like blood. Today marks the first day of my last year alive.
Three hundred sixty-four days, seven hours, five minutes, and sixteen — no, fifteen — seconds to live. I’ve always thought it cruel they include the seconds. But people want absolutes. They demand fine lines in a fuzzy world.”
Parvin Blackwater believes she has wasted her life. At only seventeen, she has one year left according to the Clock by her bedside. In a last-ditch effort to make a difference, she tries to rescue Radicals from the government’s crooked justice system. But when the authorities find out about her illegal activity, they cast her through the Wall to the perilous and mysterious West— her people’s death sentence. What she finds on the other side about the world, about eternity, and about herself changes Parvin forever and might just save her people. But her Clock is running out. And there is no certainty that she can survive long enough to use what she has discovered at such a harrowing cost. Will Parvin find a way to make her last bit of life meaningful before she zeroes-out? And how far is she willing to go? How much is she willing to lose? Can good really come out of a broken shalom?
Parvin is… human and a girl. She’s a little selfish and immature with a good dose of weakness mixed in and some fear and anger too, just for good measure. But she’s also sympathetic with a hidden streak of bravery. At the beginning and through the first bit of the book, that was all she had going for her. One of the things that I love (love, love, love) about this book is that she didn’t stay that way (for those of you who have read some of my other reviews, character development is kind of big deal for me). While she remains thoroughly human and a girl (that is to say, she’s not perfect), her bravery grows. She comes to know God and that is what really changed her from a feeble child to a courageous young woman. As I mentioned before, Parvin is weak and immature. After getting to know God, she begins to accept her weaknesses and rely on God instead of herself. ‘But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.’ – 2 Corinthians 12:9 became her mindset. While she still has her immature moments, she displays subtle wisdom and supernatural peace as she learns.
Jude is dangerous, unpredictable, arrogant, and… mysterious. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love Jude. He proves to be strong, loyal, smart, brave, and… still mysterious. I can’t stand heroes who act like boys and not men, but Jude was a breath of fresh air because he acts like a man – a real man. Honestly, I didn’t see as much change in Jude as I did in Parvin. Part of it was he didn’t need to grow as much as she did. His development was more of a softening or thawing that crept in quietly and inconspicuously, and that is exactly what makes him believable. Like Parvin, Jude is far from perfect, but he is thoroughly likeable and good at heart.
The dystopian world of A Time to Die is intriguing and seemingly limitless. Incredible technology paired with a tyrannical government gives it a flavor akin to The Hunger Games, but I find that that is the only resemblance. The Hunger Games showed the reader a chillingly godless and truly hopeless world (the version of hope in The Hunger Games is sad, unfulfilling, and lacking any sort of eternal dimension) while A Time to Die offers a brave hope merely in acknowledging the existence of God. With creative gadgets, diverse cultures, and an interesting landscape, the world of A Time to Die is well-built and intriguing.
What I appreciate most about this book is that God is not an afterthought thrown in to have “Christian” added to the label. God and the path to a meaningful life are the primary focus. Ms. Brandes flawlessly depicted Parvin’s interactions with God so that they were real and honest. They didn’t seem forced or clichéd at all.
I was hooked right at the beginning, but there were a few times I wish I had been shown more and told less in the first 70ish pages. Honestly, I would have cried, but this book simply shocked me to pieces. By the end my emotional state was that of a bubble. Now, I’m not saying these things to keep you from reading this book, rather, the opposite. But I’m trying to convey that this is not a fluff book. Ms. Brandes successfully carried out an exquisite ending, excellent characters, eloquent themes, an exciting world, and an engaging writing style.
Therefore, I give A Time to Die five out of five throwing, sleepless stars and a PG-13 rating.
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