“But we can still be saved, my children, if we look to the Lord and the Lamb and their Apostles, and obey their rules.”THE CROSSING was not a book I had heard much about until a fateful email drew my attention to it. I’d heard about it vaguely in the past, that it was originally from New Zealand and that it was a religious post-apocalyptic dystopia. But what I didn’t expect to find was something so much deeper than what the synopsis presented. It’s a study on humanity, on racism, on slavery, on religion, on the power of fear, and on the power of friendship, love, and trust. And it was almost one of the best dystopian novels I could have ever imagined.If you are squeamish about the darkness of humanity, THE CROSSING might not be for you. It is not an action-packed dystopia like most YA dystopias are. This is no DIVERGENT or DELIRIUM. This is more in the manner of THE HANDMAID’S TALE, except potentially darker in a sense. After an apocalypse and plague wiped out most of humanity, a tiny island in the South Pacific becomes the last known refuge. A cruise ship, beached on coral, has become the headquarters for the Apostles, white men and women who have brought the word of God to the barbaric islanders they’ve found, turning them into workers, into believers, and into slaves who hinge on their every word. Until one girl figures out the truth and decides to fight back.Young adult fiction is not an arena you generally find philosophical and social debates about organized religion, racial relations, and rape. THE CROSSING, book one in the Blood of the Lamb series, deals with all of this and more. This is not a happy book in any sense of the word. People die, people that you come to care about. People betray others in the hopes that they are doing the right thing by God. People fear and distrust and sacrifice their kin to please the Lord. And at the heart of this story is the corruption of religion for one’s own devices. How much more hard hitting can it get without getting too adult?This story has some massive crossover appeal, I think. It’s about a teen girl, but the situations she encounters are most definitely very dark. Also, I believe part of the synopsis is a spoiler. I won’t say what part, but it gives away the ending of the book. You’ll see if you read the story.The characterization is growing, changing, and mostly believable. One of my hang ups that got this story a 4 instead of a 5, though, was the dialogue. It was written in a more formal style, which got intensely grating after 200 odd pages. Likewise, it let the plot go around in circles at points, but I still tore through this one quickly. The story itself kept me enraptured. This was one of my first (if not THE first) forays into New Zealand kids lit, and it hooked me – hard.If you are in the market for something darker, try this one. I can’t reveal a lot about it without giving away some of the crucial, wrenching parts of the book that are best experienced through reading it, which should be a good sign. THE CROSSING might be one of the darkest books I’ve read in YA in a long time, but still, this is a book that cannot be missed.VERDICT: Albeit extremely dark, THE CROSSING breaks many lines that young adult fiction won’t cross, making it a pulse-pounding, heart-wrenching dystopia that takes risks and succeeds in almost all of them.