ARC Review: Prepped by Bethany Mangle

“I know for a surety that no one, not even Dad, has ever loved this girl as much as I do. She didn’t grow within my body or wail her first cries against my chest, but she is mine.”

Prepped by Bethany Mangle

Genre: YA, Romance, Contemporary
Setting: America
Pages: 320
Release date: February 2021
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books, Simon & Schuster
Trigger and content warnings // child abuse and death of a loved one.
Rating: ★★★

For fans of Jeff Zentner and Katie Henry comes a thrilling and funny debut about a teen raised in a doomsday community who plots her escape with the boy from the bunker next door.

Always be ready for the worst day of your life.

This is the mantra that Becca Aldaine has grown up with. Her family is part of a community of doomsday preppers, a neighborhood that prioritizes survivalist training over class trips or senior prom. They’re even arranging Becca’s marriage with Roy Kang, the only eligible boy in their community. Roy is a nice guy, but he’s so enthusiastic about prepping that Becca doesn’t have the heart to tell him she’s planning to leave as soon as she can earn a full ride to a college far, far away.

Then a devastating accident rocks Becca’s family and pushes the entire community, including Becca’s usually cynical little sister, deeper into the doomsday ideology. With her getaway plans thrown into jeopardy, the only person Becca can turn to is Roy, who reveals that he’s not nearly as clueless as he’s been pretending to be.

When Roy proposes they run away together, Becca will have to risk everything—including her heart—for a chance to hope for the best instead of planning for the worst.

REVIEW

I want to thank Ellen Whitfield, from Books Forward, for providing me with a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

This doomsday community said: “Walking dead, but make it without the zombies… and the apocalypse.”

Well, well, well. This was quite unlike anything I’ve ever read. An entirely fresh premise that would be perfect for the silver screen. We have:

★ A Phil and Claire Dunphy/Nani and David YA romance

★ A sisterhood so strong and so rocky and so adorable and so protective that perfectly captures the love older sisters have for their little sisters

★ Parents and a doomsday community that are so bewildering, terrifying, and ruthless in their pursuit of preparing for an apocalypse that is yet to arrive…

★ And the unexpected friends we made along the way (counting that free-spirited showstopper goat too, of course).

‘Prepped’ has a lot going for it, and I think with some more polishing and tightening of prose and a faster pace, it would be even better. There were a couple of areas which could have been cut for length to make for a steadier pacing. Becca’s dark humour against the backdrop of what is essentially, in some subtle ways and other more blatant ways, child abuse administered by a doomsday cult was at times jarring and other times totally understandable… if she can’t make fun of it, how else can she cope? Discount Becca’s humour and you’re left with a truly morbid experience. If there’s a final parting message I could leave to the doomsday community, it would be: “Surviving isn’t living.” But that ending definitely took care of it.

DOOMSDAY FAMILY – THE ONE WITH THE DIFFICULT PARENTS

For the life of me, I kept struggling to understand why Becca would still crave the love of her cold-hearted and distant father, but then I remembered… this is fairly characteristic of a difficult relationship with parents. I’m sure there will be a lot of people who can relate to Becca. The more love you see showered on your sibling(s), the more frantically you grasp for crumbs and call it love. There is something of a trauma bond that resonates here. Despite how much Becca disagrees with her father, how uncaring he is towards her… he is still her father. I… did not see that twist coming either. But this is where Becca’s teacher steps in, and I’m sure many of us have had a teacher, somewhere along the way, who’ve looked out for us when the people we expected to didn’t.

Of the pair, Becca’s mum seems a little more relaxed and loving. But you’re soon reminded that, really, she’s just the same… if anything, well, you’ll have to read and find out yourself. But I will say that I was shocked. Becca’s attempts at sympathy, through recounting her mother’s backstory, will garner no sympathy from you, reader, especially to anyone who’s had to deal with a parent who’s stuck in their ways.

BECCA AND ROY, RESIDENT PHIL AND CLAIRE DUNPHY & NANI AND DAVID (AND THEIR OWN LILO IN KATIE)

One of my two favourite things about this book (the second one you’ll find below) is Becca and Roy as a pair. From the start, Roy is an absolute sweetie. He’s so caring, thoughtful, smart, optimistic, and fun. Imagine the lovable sidekick… but as a love interest. I know, right?! Then there’s Becca, a realist bordering on cynicism, responsible, ambitious, and an amazing brain to boot. They could not be more perfect for each other. At first, you sort of think Roy is a clueless, but sweet dope, only to find out he’s both sweet and smart… and romantic. And, also, wonderfully takes care of Becca’s little sister, Katie, too, which every elder sister would appreciate. Together, they make new friends, despite the stigma surrounding the doomsday community that brands them as ‘misfits’ and ‘weird’. They are such a healthy and wholesome couple that bring out the best in each other, it’s exactly the refreshing YA romance you need.

“For just a moment, everything else fades away, until it’s just the two of us, this tree, this feeling of contentedness that I’ve never known enough to want before.”

“… Planting a delicate kiss above my wrist as though he’s afraid of breaking it. We’ve touched before, but never with such tenderness. I intertwine our fingers, holding tight.”

BECCA AND KATIE – THE ONE WITH THE SISTERHOOD

Eeeeeeeeeee! And I am telling you… no one can love the youngest sister more than their older sister. (If my sister is reading this… no, you didn’t). Bethany Mangle gets it spot on. Becca making sure Katie’s safe, Becca only making plans after accounting for Katie, Katie being both annoying and adorable and sadly becoming brainwashed and Katie doing everything she can to stop it… not a single spot was missed. Come hell or high water, Becca will look after Katie. In another life, Katie would be stealing Becca’s clothes and parading it as her own at a school dance.

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What are your thoughts on Prepped? Could you ever live as a part of doomsday community taking on survivalist training fit for the likes of Bear Grylls? Who are some of the most wholesome fictional couples? How does your relationship you’re your siblings look like? Have you ever had a teacher who’s looked out for you? Let me know in the comments!

Sophia Ismaa

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