One of the most outstanding and truly unforgettable books I’ve ever read, this tender coming of age tale took my breath away, and to say I loved it would be a gross understatement. Exquisitely written, and laced with immeasurable amounts of heart and truth, this book perfectly captures the intensity and angst of teenage love, while relaying a message that is so powerful and relevant, it moved me to tears too many times to count. A genuine masterpiece that should be read by absolutely everyone.
“My family is very adamant that I don’t come out to anyone here, not unless I really trust the person.”
When eighteen-year-old Tanner Scott and his family moved from California to Provo—a predominantly Mormon town in the middle of Utah—his overly supportive parents had decided that it was in his best interest to keep his sexuality hidden from his peers and the deeply conservative religious community surrounding them. Encouraged all his life to be confortable in his own skin and proud of the person he is, Tanner cannot wait to move away for college, and with high school graduation only a semester away, he knows his closeted days are numbered.
The second my wheels hit the state line, I am going to roll down my window and wave my flag.
But when on the first day of a highly coveted book-writing course he meets Sebastian Brother, the Mormon prodigy who took that course the year before and then ended up selling his novel to a big publishing house, Tanner’s life tilts on its axis the moments he lays eyes on their new teacher’s aide. Across a busy classroom, their eyes meet and a half-Jewish queer boy falls irrevocably in love with the very devout son of a Mormon bishop.
As he faces the class from the front now, his eyes flash when they meet mine—for a tiny flicker of a second, and then again, like a prism catching light, because he does a double take. That fraction of a heartbeat is long enough for him to register my immediate infatuation. Holy shit, how quickly he recognizes it.
As inspiration continues to evade him and Tanner begins to battle the blank pages of his book, Sebastian offers to help him through his writer’s block, but the more time they spend together, in and out of the school setting, the more Tanner’s infatuation grows. And, to his surprise, it would appear that his feelings are very much returned.
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.
A secret romance between them begins to blossom, and we watch two young men from two very different worlds fall hopelessly in love with one another despite the very real risk of heartbreak. We watch Sebastian struggle to reconcile all he’s been taught to believe with all he knows to be true about himself, we watch him repeatedly deny his heart what it wants the most in the world, and fail at it time and time again.
“I tried to change. And to not even let myself imagine how it would feel . . . being with . . . But then I met you.”
And in the midst of it all, Tanner’s book begins to take shape, becoming a candid, personal account of a young love that refuses to be dismissed or condemned as sin, even if no one ever gets to read it at all.
He wants to read my book, the book about falling in love with him. But how can I send my heart to him when he’s just said, in no uncertain terms, that he doesn’t speak its language?
With the unyielding dogmas of Sebastian’s faith constantly making him question himself and the consequences of his choices, it becomes increasingly clear to them both that loving one another would inevitably lead to great sacrifice, and they must decide whether what they’ve found in each other is worth it.
“When I kiss you, it feels right, even if everything I read says it shouldn’t.”
Christina Lauren pens a remarkable tale of love and hope, speckled with gems of wisdom and insight into a world that up to now was entirely foreign to me. I am overcome with emotion every time I think of these characters, my heart wanting to burst out of my chest at the mere thought of this story, its importance, and the undeniable magnitude of its message. I feel my soul was enriched by this splendid book, and I cannot but sing its highest praises. A must-read.
“Did you ever look inside yourself while you prayed and try to find the seed of who you are in there, instead of just asking God over and over for permission to look?”