It’s the story of a boy, growing up evangelically Christian, and fervently believing in his religion, and how he reconciles that religion to the growing realization he is gay. At the same time, he is dealing with being orphaned and left in the care of his older brother; being deserted by his childhood friend after learning that the feelings he had for him were reciprocated; becoming friends with a non-believer classmate Pearl; and finding dual father figures in Reverend Amos King, his godfather whose infectious religious rhetoric cloaks a secret of his own, and in Gregory Hart, a bachelor caring for his wheelchair-bound sister whose good heart cannot make up for the near-certain suspicion in this small Idaho town that Gregory is a homosexual.
As in his other books, Reardon perfectly captures the arrogant egocentrism of adolescence, that unassailable confidence, that smug and false superiority. In the case of Jude Connor, those already innate teenage tendencies are exacerbated by his belief that God has placed him in a position to judge and teach the non-believers around him.
One of the most beautiful and momentous scenes of the book occurs when Jude finally has That First Time. We all know how confusing and complicated that moment can be, even without a voice in our head spouting God’s condemnation. Reardon addresses the moment perfectly:
It was all wrong, and it was all perfect. It was dynamite and Hell opening up but also fireworks and shooting stars. It was Satan’s trap closing on me and the answer to all my prayers at once. It would kill my soul, and I couldn’t live without it
This book deals with the difference between the blind adherence to doctrine and the genuine expression of faith. It is a journey so many of us have taken. The Churches so many of us grew up in, supposed to be places of love, acceptance, and healing, take on a dark power to harm us as we begin to not only accept our sexuality but also just to think and question for ourselves. There are different roads we can take, and this book shows a few of the different results. We can repress and lie and deny, constantly fighting against such a vital part of our being. We can admit who we are and what we feel, but deny an act that is so natural and needed in an effort to balance orientation with doctrine. Or we can embrace our sexuality and ourselves, and find a way to have a faith that includes the message that at the end of it all, gay or straight, Christian or not, “our souls will be fine…as long as we bring love into the world whenever possible.”
Submitted By: Rob B. Follow him on Twitter @robbrowatzke
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