Mandy Hager brings to life an eerie world of subservience in The Crossing. The first in the new Blood of the Lamb trilogy, The Crossing transports the reader to a world that is a perfect nightmare. Hager expertly infuses her story with the time old tradition of native servants and a corrupted sense of religion that teaches natives to obey and never question.
Maryam refused to play by the rules, and now they’re out to get her blood…. The people of Onew?re, a small island in the Pacific, know that they are special-chosen by the great Apostles of the Lamb to survive the deadly Tribulation that consumed the Earth. Now, from their Holy City in the rotting cruise ship Star of the Sea, the Apostles control the population-manipulating texts from the Holy Book to implant themselves as living gods. But what the people of Onew?re don’t know is this: the white elite will stop at nothing to meet their own bloodthirsty needs.
When Maryam crosses from child to woman, she must leave everything she has ever known and make a crossing of another kind. But life inside the Holy City is not as she had dreamed, and she is faced with the unthinkable: obey the Apostles and very likely die, or turn her back on every belief she once held dear.
From the opening, Hager made me empathize with Maryam. Though as a character Maryam is a bit one dimensional, this adds to her sense of powerlessness due to circumstance. The adventure Maryam has is one that she has been taught to look forward to with joy. Like any good heroine, Maryam chooses to put aside her upbringing and question.
While The Crossing is a hard read, it is not challenging due to extensive vocabulary or long prose. Instead, The Crossing is a hard read because it is downright creepy. Hager writes in a way that makes any reader who may lack empathy to quickly become an expert in empathy. In The Crossing, religion is obsessed with blood and the subsequent ability to breed. In fact, characters are chosen to be bleeders or breeders. This very thought is so invasive that I had to put it down on several occasions. Perhaps one of the most disturbing aspects of The Crossing is that there is no option of fighting back. Considering that I love my post-apocalyptic fiction to come with an axe for zombie killing purposes, this was a stark change for me.
As a young adult novel, I think that The Crossing fails. Not only is the world not an escape, but it preys on the most vulnerable concept- your place in the world. With subject matter like forced pregnancies and rape tied to religion I found The Crossing to be sending a not so subtle message. I admire Hager’s willingness to examine how history of oppression would determine the culture of the post apocalyptic world but, unfortunately, it seems that Hager’s hands were tied trying to adapt this sordid tale for the young adult market. Hager’s writing style leaves much to the reader’s imagination and it is in this mental imagery that The Crossing becomes disturbing. If she were able to expand on her descriptions of the world, such as what the buildings look like or the scent of the sea , as well as the edgier, more disturbing aspects of the tale, The Crossing would’ve been a great piece of immersive fiction. As is, it falls short. If it were not for my commitment to read books to their completion, I would have put The Crossing to the side, never to complete.