“A God worthy of your eternal love wouldn’t judge you for who you love while you’re here.”
Friends, I only picked this book up because it was on sale this month on Audible, even though I can never focus on audiobooks. I only started listening, because I decided to spend last night playing video games with my best friend. I only clicked play because he was telling me about his latest audiobook. I honestly believe with whole heart that the stars aligned to make me read this book, and I will be forever thankful because this is one of the best books I’ve ever read in my entire life.
This is a story about a boy named Tanner, who is bisexual, but not fully out because his parents moved to Utah and are living in a place where almost everyone is Mormon. And Tanner’s best friend, Autumn, convinces (or begs) him to join this writing class, where they have to write, edit, and turn in a book, before the end of the semester. A boy from the previous year, named Sebastian, actually got the book that he turned in published! So, he is back, working as a TA, helping other kids write their books.
“It opens with a boy and a girl, a dare, and crumbs on a bed. But where it really begins is with a double take and the words “His smile ruins me.”
Trigger and content warnings for homophobic slur(s), talk of conversion therapy, and shitty parents that aren’t accepting of their children.
Also, full disclosure and all that, I connected very easily to Tanner. I knew, early in high school, that I wasn’t straight. And my parents aren’t as amazing as Tanners, but they were always supportive and accepting and let me know that they will love me regardless of who I chose to love. Yet, I can connect a tiny bit with Sebastian because God, and the Catholic church, have always been a big part of my life. I have never known a life like Sebastian’s, but I remember how scared I was to come out to certain members of my childhood church. More like, “hey, this is my girlfriend” while letting them deal with the information whatever way pleased them. But I’ve never had anyone from church tell me that my feelings, or wants, or the integral parts of who I am, were wrong. And to this day I still consider myself Catholic, and I still believe that God loves me regardless of who I love. Also, here is your friendly reminder in case you need it: Whatever higher power you believe in loves you regardless of who you choose to love. And you are valid and worthy of love, no matter who you choose to give your heart to.
So, reading Sebastian’s life just broke my heart over and over and over. I’ll also be honest, I don’t have any Mormon/LDS friends. I know all the terrible stereotypes, but this book is the only book I’ve even read that stars a Mormon character. So, even though I didn’t have a lot of knowledge about the Mormon church going into this book, I actually feel like this book actually taught me a bit about their beliefs and values. And I actually really appreciated and liked seeing the glimpses, even if it was hard at times. And I also think the authors wrote this book in a very respectful way towards the religion.
“You have so much space in your heart for your church, but does it have space for you?”
Tanner’s parents are my favorite parents of all literature. Goals, completely goals, in every sense of the word. And just seeing the juxtaposition between Tanner and Sebastian’s parents, it’s heartbreaking. To see how a child can thrive when they are accepted to embrace who they are. Then to see a child feel worthless, and wrong, and to actually pray to be different. You all, I don’t have words. And as much as I want to give a copy of this to every kid that is questioning their feelings, I wish I could put this in the hands of every single person who is even thinking of becoming a parent. But I will say that the only negative thing I can think about in this book is that Tanner’s parents are so amazing and supportive, but they still moved him to a place where he had to go back into the closet. Even if it was just for a few years, it still doesn’t feel too great when you think about that without the other amazing aspects of this story coming in to play.
When people have recommended this book to me they would always use words like “cute” and “sweet”, but I honestly cried while listening to at least half of this book. This book tore me a part, ripped me open, completely broke me, and then somehow put me back together, stitched me up, and completely healed me. Reading this book was a cathartic experience, without question.
But the romance is so good. And you will become so easily invested with these two boys who want nothing more than to love each other unapologetically. And even though I cried through most of this book, some of these tears were from pure happiness. These authors are romances writers, and it really shines throughout the novel and makes you ship these two so damn hard.
I also really loved that Tanner is bisexual (even though I think he could be pansexual, if he wanted that label), and it is constantly talked about how he has had relationships with different genders and emphasized that just because this book is a romance between two boys, Tanner is not gay. I really appreciated it. I also loved how thoughtful Tanner was with not outing Sebastian, and the important spotlight that these authors shined on how you shouldn’t out or discuss anyone’s sexuality, regardless of the relationship you have with them.
“Kissing boys feels good. Kissing girls feels good. But something tells me kissing Sebastian would be like a sparkler falling in the middle of a field of dry grass.”
This book also puts friendship, and how important it is to be open, communicative, and accepting in those friendships, in the spotlight. I loved Autumn so much, and her relationship with Tanner was a joy to read about. Friendships can be so confusing, and even messy at times, but unconditional love will forever and always be the most powerful force on the planet.
Overall, I read this in one day. I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t put it down. I still can’t stop thinking about it. This book is honestly perfection in my eyes. And I wish I could put it in the hands of every single kid who is questioning who they are and who they love. I will cherish this book forever. And I’m sorry if this review is a little all over the place, but this book truly means more to me than I have words for. This is seriously a masterpiece.