Reviews for Meet Me Here
Booklist— 04/12/2016 (Starred review)
It’s the night of Thomas’ high-school graduation, and he is agonizing over what’s happening the next day. He has enlisted in the army, just like his dad and brother, and he is set to go to training first thing in the morning. But his brother, Jake, came back from the war deeply broken, and Thomas is afraid of ending up like him—a man fading away to almost nothing. Over the course of the night, he reunites with his childhood friend Mallory, who is also afraid of the future she is facing; wanders from adventure to adventure; tries to save his brother from self-destructive choices; and finds himself questioning his plan to skip showing up at the recruitment center and run away. Though one peripatetic night might not sound like a compelling plot, Bliss keeps the pages turning with vivid, rich characters and weighty moments of self-discovery. With compassionate grace, Bliss plumbs the depths not only of Thomas’ heavy choices but also the impact of war on a personal level and the singular sense of community that comes from living in a small blue-collar town. Though the relationship between Mallory and Thomas might perhaps be the most alluring at the outset, it’s the connection between Thomas and his brother that is ultimately the most satisfying and meaningful. Thoughtful, empathetic, and deeply stirring.
On graduation night, the road less traveled leads to a new understanding between friends and family.
Thomas’ life is pretty well mapped out for him. It’s graduation night, and he’s expected to report to the recruitment officer the next morning to follow his father’s and brother’s footsteps into the Army. But Thomas has other plans. He’s seen what being a soldier did to his brother, Jake, who can’t function even as the town greets him as a hero. Thomas doesn’t want to end up that way. He’s willing to run away from everything familiar to avoid the same fate. But then his old friend Mallory needs his help figuring out how she really feels about her boyfriend, and graduation night takes on a whole new meaning as Thomas and Mallory reconnect, remember, reveal, and discover that the paths they’d chosen might not be the right ones after all. Bliss offers a well-crafted story about the people who come home from war damaged and the family members this affects. Slipping deftly between past and present time frames, Bliss creates a three-dimensional landscape of broken characters without losing a presiding sense of hope, grounding his story in a rural, white North Carolina community where trucks are king.
A love story between brothers, the novel provides a touching glimpse of a different kind of courage.
Minneapolis Star-Tribune — 12/22/2014 (featured review)
“Throughout, Bliss blends a headlong rush with delicate hesitancy that stems from real caring on the part of the teens.”
School Library Journal
“Bliss’s novel address the push teens may feel after high school to do what is expected of them and not what they want…With a 24-hour intense timeframe and thoughtful discussion of PTSD, this title has elements of Cath Crowley’s Graffiti Moon and Trish Doller’s Something Like Normal.”
Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA)
“Told over one night, Thomas’s story is both classic night-before-it-all-changes hijinks-parties, fighting, nostalgia, and unexpected friendships-and part darker, existential concerns connected to the realities of war. …The strong emotional impact will attract serious readers.”
The Horn Book
“Bliss presents another thoughtful and penetrating family drama. …through meaningful encounters with friends and family, Thomas gains a deeper understanding of sacrifice, the power of brotherhood and community, and just how fine the line between courage and fear can be.”
Reviews for No Parking at the End Times
Publishers Weekly — 12/22/2014
Abigail and her twin brother, Aaron, live in a van in San Francisco, begging for meals from local churches and waiting for the end of the world with their fervently religious father and dutiful mother. After their zealot preacher’s prediction falls short, the teens approach their breaking points, desperate for some semblance of normalcy. The family’s hapless circumstances provide a distinctive backdrop for this contemplative coming-of-age tale, Bliss’s debut. As a homeless teen, Abigail is unfairly and abruptly cast in a parental role when her parents fail to provide the basic necessities, selling their home and giving their money to a man who is little more than a con artist. Bliss’s languidly paced story focuses on Abigail’s internal turmoil as she questions her faith, her parents’ sanity, and her bond with her brother. But there are plenty of external events to push the story forward, from the siblings’ late-night explorations with street kids they befriend to Abigail’s jogs, which serve as much-needed escapes from her claustrophobic existence. Ages 14–up. Agent: Michael Bourret, Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. (Feb.)
Horn Book Magazine
“Bliss’s debut explores family, sacrifice, and the power of everyday faith with a deft and sensitive hand.”
National Book Award Finalist, Sara Zarr
“This quietly powerful story of a young woman’s quest for deliverance in the face of parental failure, religious disillusionment, and self-doubt moved me deeply. I can’t wait to see what Bryan Bliss does next.”
School Library Journal — 11/01/2014
Gr 8 Up—This haunting and elegiac tale opens with Abigail and her family living in a van parked on the San Francisco streets. Months earlier, Abby’s unemployed father took the family from their North Carolina home to follow “Brother John” across the country to a place where they would all meet the end of days together. The world was due to end at midnight on New Year’s Eve. Now it’s January, the world did not end, and Abby, her twin brother Aaron, and her parents still have no home. With no school to attend, Abby and Aaron’s only escape from the close confines of the van is the predatory self-anointed preacher’s “church” (an empty store). The family is often hungry, cold, and dirty—yet do not consider themselves “homeless.” Aaron has hooked up with a group of homeless teens who hang out in the park and has begun a secret relationship with Jess, a street-smart girl who left home at 14 when her mother’s boyfriend sexually abused her. Abby wants to continue to be the good girl her parents expect and to protect her brother from getting mixed up in dangerous street drama, but most of all, she wants to go home. The protagonist’s desperation is palpable. Readers will wait anxiously for something terrible to happen, only to come to the dawning realization that it already has. Bliss offers a stark portrayal of a family lost and a searing perspective on homelessness. An interesting choice for book discussion and recommended for readers of realistic fiction.—Tara Kehoe, New Jersey State Library Talking Book and Braille Center, Trenton
Kirkus Reviews — 11/04/2014
Even though the end of the world didn’t happen, it still feels like it to Abigail.After the teen’s down-and-out parents sell all their possessions in North Carolina and give the money to smarmy Brother John in California—who claims that the end of the world is near—Abigail, her twin brother, Aaron, and her still-trusting parents find themselves homeless, living out of their van in San Francisco. In this debut novel informed more by adult sensibility than teenspeak, Abigail begins to see her parents’ manipulation by Brother John and questions her own faith in the world. Aaron, meanwhile, escapes the insanity by sneaking out each evening to meet up with the city’s other homeless teens. As Abigail notices her once-close brother’s increasing detachment from her and the family, she wrestles with a range of emotions, from jealousy to separation anxiety. Packed with some lovely phrasing, the story has good intentions, but a slow, repetitious plot and a lack of tension will keep it from fully engaging most adolescent readers. A hopeful yet too-tidy ending offers instant resolutions. Thoughtful readers may take interest in Abigail’s self-discoveries. (Fiction. 14 & up)