By Amy Christine Parker. Note: the free Kindle "version" of this story on Amazon isn't a full book, but features the first seven chapters and an interview with the author.
When she was a little kid, Lyla Hamilton's older sister Karen was abducted and never found. After that, her parents were pretty well destroyed (especially her mother), but they found comfort in this new strange guy who came into their lives and befriended them and made them feel better. The fellow, who took the name Pioneer, eventually had the Hamilton family and other families join him in a new Community for people who were tired of dealing with the modern world and all of the horrible things that happen in it. And thus, we have Mandrodage Meadows (an anagram for "Armageddon!" Also, wouldn't "Armageddon Meadows" sound cool? Or possibly a good name for a rock band?), whcih looks like a nice, quiet, isolated neighborhood on the outside. But underneath, there's a big ol' silo where everyone plans to live after the inevitable apocalypse comes. According to Pioneer, these are the chosen people and everyone else on the planet will die--and the Community members better be able to kill on sight to defend themselves. After ten years, people are pretty equipped to disappear when the time comes.
However, the police are starting to suspect something, and the sheriff brings his teenage son Cody along to help him investigate, and requests a tour for him. Lyla, on guard duty at the time, ends up doing the job. She's whammo'd by Cody at first sight, and it's mutual. Which is a problem since not only is he unsaved and going to die soon, Pioneer has betrothed Lyla to her best guy friend Will. (Who Lyla loves, but not in a sexual way. Poor Will.) Much as Lyla wants to love Will in that way, Cody's the one who gets her heart pumping.
But soon, there will be bigger things to worry about. Because Pioneer starts telling them the end of the world will be soon and showing them news footage of Hurricane Katrina and the earthquakes in Japan and Indonesia, and everyone better start packing up, getting the guns, and making one last run into town before they disappear forever. On her last run into town, Lyla meets up with Cody again... but she also gets hit by a car and gets a concussion. That throws off everyone's plans, especially since that gives Cody more time to sneak chats with Lyla, and she tells him about what she's seen on the news lately.... but of course Lyla didn't know that those events happened years ago.
DUM DUM DUM.... Pioneer smells a rat, makes sure the Hamiltons get out of the police station, and he starts thinking that maybe The Brethren up above just want them all to die instead. Lyla'sthe only one who knows what's going on, but convincing anyone else in The Community is gonna be a problem....especially if Pioneer is losing it.
This is a tense, gripping thriller, especially at the end, which is terrifying. Hoo boy. The author does an excellent job of explaining the Community's culture and how Pioneer's isolationist stance would really appeal to people--especially Lyla's mom, who becomes more and more .... well, I'll take it below the spoiler cut on that one. She also takes care to show different sides of Pioneer. He is definitely shown having a good side and caring about the folks under his care, including being nice to Lyla and even getting her her beloved horse. On the other hand...it's also fairly clear that he's got a dark side after Lyla and her friends sneak out for a late night date and boy, are they ever caught at it. And of course as the po-po catch on to Pioneer's armageddon rag, he devolves, serial killer-style. Whoa. I did wonder a bit about that, but I suppose under the circumstances, and his mindset, and how some folks react when things go wrong....well, I guess you snap. And it's scary.
Lyla also grows a lot in the course of the book. Everyone thinks she's meek and mild--her nickname is "Little Owl"--but she's rapidly in a situation where she needs to toughen up in a hurry, and she does. I did admire how she does the right thing and eventually gets to the point where she'll do anything she has to. You go, girl.
I would definitely like to see a sequel to this book, featuring the aftermath of the experience. And oh, look, there will be! I'll talk about the end below the spoiler cut, but...four stars from me and I'll be keeping an eye out for the sequel. Wowza.