Ages: Marina turns 14 over the course of the story; Jed is 16.
Who Are They?: Jed and Marina are two of the 144 members of Reverend Beelson’s congregation of “Believers” who will supposedly be saved from God’s Armageddon, coming in three short weeks, on Marina’s birthday.
Specifically, Marina is a girl from a large family with a very religious mother, who wants desperately to be a better Believer. She wants so badly to believe in the message and the promise of Reverend Beelson and his church, but she is plagued by doubts and questions that she is too afraid to ask.
Jed is a boy who believes exactly none of what Reverend Beelson says about Armageddon, is convinced he’s up on a mountaintop with a bunch of nutcases, and is really only there because his dad gave him no choice in the matter. He questions constantly, breaks the camp’s rules, and just wants the day of Armageddon to pass so he can say “I told you so,” and go back to his normal life.
Why Do We Love Them?: Jed and Marina are two people who should never have met, and if they did meet, they should never have liked each other, and if they did like each other, they should never have been anything more than a short-lived, rebellious summer fling. But instead, we have these two incredibly different teenagers with completely contrasting views on life, forced together by circumstances far beyond their control. And so, they meet. And there is an instant attraction that they both fight for different reasons (her mother hates him entirely, just before the end of the world is no time to fall in love, etc.), but the more they try to avoid each other, the more they seem to run into each other, and the more apparent it becomes that they can each provide what the other so desperately needs – for Jed, it’s Marina’s strong faith and belief in the idea that something much larger than either of them is at work; for Marina, it’s Jed’s ability to ask questions, and his refusal to simply accept what he’s being told .
As the world falls to pieces around them – for the End of Days does indeed come, but not in a way anyone predicted – Jed and Marina suddenly become the only sane people in a sea of crazed Believers.
Working together, they make it through Armageddon, and they are both irreparably changed. And when you experience that with someone, the bond between you is cemented.
Coville and Yolen do an amazing job here of taking the traditional summer camp romance and turning it on its ear, and into something more powerful and meaningful. Jed and Marina’s story is one of love blooming in the midst of chaotic destruction, and the way they come to know and understand one another is the true miracle of this novel.
Jed on Marina:
She had thick, glossy chestnut hair that hung over her shoulders, and when she turned her head I could see that she was kind of nice looking. Big eyes. Upturned nose. That kind of thing. She was wearing very simple clothes, which was no surprise in a place like this. I wondered if she was actually a Believer or if, like me, she had been dragged here against her will.
Standing at the mouth of the cave, with the Milky Way glowing in the black sky behind her, she had been nothing more than a shape outlined with stars. It made her look magical. Heavenly, even. Heck, I might actually have though she was an angel — a real angel, not some bozo with a gun — if she hadn’t opened her mouth.
Something about her got to me . . . something it took me a while to find the word for. It was her intensity. Things seemed to mean more to Marina than they did to most people. As I came to find out, that intensity meant that she hurt more than most people, suffered more when things went wrong. But it also meant that she enjoyed things more, laughed harder, was more alive than anyone I had ever met. I hadn’t experienced all that yet, of course. Maybe I just saw it in her eyes.
Marina on Jed:
For once, I was not thinking about Dad. I was thinking about Leo.
And about the boy.
Because part of me was whispering, He’s cute.
Even with the rattail.
Even with the sneer.
Even with the End of the World.
I thought, His eyes are deep brown and soft. His nose is strong looking, not quite a beak. he looks like a young hawk, not quite tamed.
I thought, He’s bright and the thinks carefully about things. Cares desperately about things. Things he knows. Things he doesn’t know.
I thought, He’s not quite a Believer, but he’s here. And maybe that will be enough.
I thought, I still don’t know his name and don’t know who to ask.
I thought, It’s six days till my birthday, which is the End of the World. What time do I have for love?
He stared at me for a long time, as if memorizing my face so he could dodge me for the rest of our lives, making me glad that there was only a week left before Armageddon. Then he drew in a breath and said, “Because my dad is here. And he’s such a dope, somebody has to take care of him.” And my heart, which had been made into an ice pack at his silence, melted. Of course he — Jed!– would do that. Take care of his dad. See him through to the end of the world.