I received a review copy of “The Earthquake Machine” from the author, Mary Pauline Lowry. I’ve included two different cover images. The one on the left is the original cover, and the one on the right is the new cover. Personally, I like the old cover better, but I understand why it wouldn’t necessarily appeal to the book’s targeted demographic.
“The Earthquake Machine” is the coming-of-age story of a fourteen-year-old girl. Rhonda’s family life seems perfect on the surface, but her mother has mental health issues which her pharmacist father tries to solve by force-feeding her psych meds that kill her personality. The only person she feels like she can really talk to is Jesus, the Mexican gardener. Rhonda’s world is shattered when her mother commits suicide and Jesus is deported by the INS. Rhonda goes on a camping trip with her friends to try to take her mind off of everything and ends up getting molested by one of the guides. She runs away to Mexico and begins an intrepid journey of self-discovery as she begins to examine her faith, her sexuality, and her future. She struggles to accept her changing body and to find her place in the world.
When I initially read the synopsis that the author sent me, I wasn’t sure what to expect. It sounded as if the book would either be very good or very bad; luckily, I enjoyed it tremendously!
Rhonda’s adventures in Mexico were a pleasure to read, from her encounters with a peyote-tripping bartender to being kidnapped by a gang of female banditos. While some of Rhonda’s experiences seem a bit over the top, I don’t find them outside the realm of believability. This is in part due to some of my own travel adventures which sound more like fiction than reality. I enjoyed the way that the author handled the contrast between the superficiality of Rhonda’s family in the US with the authenticity of Jesus’ family in Mexico, because she did so in such a way as to highlight the fact that neither world was perfect.
“The Earthquake Machine” is technically young adult, although it is best for an older teenage audience. There is a decent amount of sexual content, which I thought worked well in the book. Even though some parents might have issues with the content, many teenagers do struggle with coming to terms with their sexual identities and realizing that what’s happening with their bodies is completely normal. I wish that I had read something as a teenager that was this frank about it.
I normally don’t read very many self-published books, but this one stands out from the crowd. “The Earthquake Machine” is extremely well-written and well-edited. I would highly recommend it!