Cover of Let's Call it a Doomsday by Katie Henry. A can of tomatoes with the San Francisco skyline

About the Book

Title: Let’s Call It a Doomsday
Published: 2019

Cover Story: Can It
Drinking Buddy: Non-Alcoholic Beer
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (some intense action scenes, language, adult situations)
Talky Talk: And I Feel Fine
Bonus Factors: Eschatology, Mormonism
Bromance Status: Solid

Cover Story: Can It

The canned food, the San Francisco skyline, and and the ominous title all drew me to this book.

The Deal:

Ellis Kimball comes from a good Mormon family and is expected to be a good Mormon daughter. The thing is, Ellis is an encyclopedia of end of the world scenarios: that volcano under Yellowstone, collapse of societal order, meteor strike, polar shift, climate catastrophe, etc. She’s stockpiling goods and supplies for the end times. Her family will thank her in the end.

Except, her parents and sister are kind of freaked out by her paranoia and fear. Everything is going to be fine, why can’t Ellis just accept that? They send her to a counselor to help get her panic under control. And it’s there that she meets Hannah. Hannah has dreams about the end of the world. And about Ellis. The last day is coming soon, and it’s going to start right there in San Francisco. Like, this December. And only Ellis and Hannah know. They have to warn everyone, right?

Drinking Buddy: Non-Alcoholic Beer

Two pints of beer cheersing with a "Denied" stamp over them

Not because I didn’t like Ellis, but because she’s Mormon.

So Ellis is a bit of an acquired taste. It would be hard to hang out with someone who’s constantly discussing the shelf life of canned goods or how to apply at tourniquet. On the other hand, her family doesn’t give her much support. Her mother yells at her for insisting on crossing a street at the crosswalk. Her sister is constantly calling her an embarrassment. Her mother goes on an on about how, just before she got pregnant, she had a dream about a perfect baby named Ellis…and how disappointing the real one turned out to be. When Ellis starts hanging out at the park with Hannah and her friends, discussing life and playing literary trivia, her parents are horrified that she’s hanging out with unsavory boys. It would almost drive a girl to wish for the end of the world as we know it.

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (some intense action scenes, language, adult situations)

Now Ellis has been having some intense feelings about a girl who attends her temple. And the LDS church hasn’t exactly been welcoming to the idea of LGBTQ members. In fact, even the children of gay people can’t get married in the temple if they want their parents to attend. On the other hand, there’s this guy named Tal, a friend of Hannah’s. A half-Brazillian lapsed Mormon, he doesn’t think Ellis is a weirdo or an alarmist. And while he doesn’t exactly want to go around hanging up warning posters with Ellis and Hannah, he doesn’t discount Ellis’s fears out of hand.

She finally meets a nice guy, just before the world ends.

Talky Talk: And I Feel Fine

The author does a good job of making Hannah’s predictions vague and unsettling. Is she truly a prophet? Is she mentally ill? Is she using Ellis for her own ends? Hannah insists they need to find a street preacher named Daniel to interpret her predictions. But it seems she and Daniel already have some kind of connection. Also, Tal and his friends warn Ellis about Hannah. She can be intense. They all love her, but maybe Ellis shouldn’t take her visions too seriously.

If I had one gripe with this book, the author tried to add too many themes. Ellis’s bisexuality, Tal’s falling out with the church, Ellis’s parents’ disappointment, and the California homeless culture are are neat ideas, but we don’t delve into any of them too deeply, and I was left feeling like I skipped a couple of chapters somewhere.

Bonus Factor: Eschatology

A nuclear explosion and mushroom cloud.

Eschatology: The theological study of the end of humanity

According to family legend, after World War I, my own great-great grandfather was convinced that the End Times were upon us. He’d chide my great-grandfather for working so hard on his farm, as Judgement Day was surely upon us, and all his work would be for nothing.

This is no new phenomena. People have been predicting the end of all things for thousands of years, with a 0% success rate. As Rev. Ivan Stang put it, ‘Imagine giving away all your worldly possessions, and then trying to get them back.’

But Ellis and Hannah live in Berkeley, a suburb of San Francisco. They’re not exactly the only doomsayers on the block, and they are by no means the weirdest. And the planet has to go sometime, doesn’t it? Who’s to say that Hannah doesn’t have it right?

Bonus Factor: Mormonism

Large Mormon temple

The author’s previous book was a warts and all look at the Roman Catholic church. In this novel, Henry tackles the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. And it’s a pretty balanced view. Ellis decries her church’s homophobia, sexism, and intolerance. On the other hand, she remembers how the church was persecuted in the early days, and how Joseph Smith’s views probably sounded pretty crazy to outsiders. I’m wondering which religion she’ll write about next.

Bromance Status: Solid

While I enjoyed the author’s other book more, I enjoyed this one. It won’t be the last time I pick up one of her books…or will it?

Literary Matchmaking

Heretics Anonymous

The author’s last book, Heretics Anonymous, shows one can be religious without being faithful, and vice versa.

The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza

In The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza, by Shaun David Hutchinson, another girl is plagued by apocalyptic visions she doesn’t understand.

All the Birds in the Sky

Charlie Jane Anders’s All the Birds in the Sky, is another end of the world book set in San Francisco.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received neither money or a water purification kit for writing this review.

Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.