My rating in stars: 5 stars
My rating in words: New all-time favorite
WHAT IT’S ABOUT:
Three years ago, Tanner Scott’s family relocated from California to Utah, a move that nudged the bisexual teen temporarily back into the closet. Now, with one semester of high school to go, and no obstacles between him and out-of-state college freedom, Tanner plans to coast through his remaining classes and clear out of Utah.
But when his best friend Autumn dares him to take Provo High’s prestigious Seminar—where honor roll students diligently toil to draft a book in a semester—Tanner can’t resist going against his better judgment and having a go, if only to prove to Autumn how silly the whole thing is. Writing a book in four months sounds simple. Four months is an eternity.
It turns out, Tanner is only partly right: four months is a long time. After all, it takes only one second for him to notice Sebastian Brother, the Mormon prodigy who sold his own Seminar novel the year before and who now mentors the class. And it takes less than a month for Tanner to fall completely in love with him.
MY THOUGHTS (SPOILER-FREE):
“Love fails for a million reasons – distance, infidelity, pride, religion, money, illness. Why is this story any more worthy?
It felt like it was. It felt important. Living in this town is suffocating in so many ways.
But if a tree falls in the woods, maybe it makes no sound.
And if a boy falls for the bishop’s closeted son, maybe it makes no story.”
This book. This book. OMG, this book! (Yes, this is probably a good time to warn you it’ll be one of those reviews. You know, where I rave and gush and don’t make all that much sense even though I desperately try to convince you of my love for this book. That kind of review)
I loved this book. And this is kind of funny, because I didn’t think I would at first. Because honestly, I didn’t want to read about strict religion and anti-LGBTQIA+ views. I was looking for something happy and fluffy. But all the reviews I read were so positive and talking about how this book made them cry and feel all the emotions and I couldn’t resist. I love me some happy and fluffy, but I’m a sucker for emotions. And boy, did this book bring all the emotions. I was on such a high while reading this. It was a book I could not put down. I was so invested in this story I started sneaking in extra reading time whenever I could because I was filled with this need to find out what would happen in Tanner and Sebastian’s story. I finished it and was so overwhelmed with emotions I just could not imagine moving on to another story. So I just went back to page 1 and started reading again. To me, that’s a definite sign of a 5-star book, so that’s exactly what I’m rating it.
So now you know my general thoughts on this amazing book. But let me try and be more specific and actually review this, shall we? (I’m still not making any promises as to the quality of this review, just saying.) Let’s try a list format, as that always helps. So a list of why I loved this book:
Tanner is the progressive bisexual teen protagonist you can’t help but love. As the main protagonist of the story, the whole book (most of it anyway) is told from Tanner’s POV. He’s a great protagonist: he’s smart, he’s witty and he’s got a knack for acting impulsively and letting his emotions rule. He’s also a bisexual teen who moved from progressive California to an almost exclusively Mormon-populated town in Utah. Needless to say, he’s kind of forced back into the closet until he graduates and can move out to go to college. Which is not actually that big of a problem for him, until he meets Sebastian.
Sebastian is the definition of cinnamon roll you just want to hug. He’s the eldest son of the bishop whose religion is such a big and important part of him and who has some pretty heavy expectations placed on him by his parents. He’s gorgeous and nice and is just an overall good person. He’s pretty famous in Provo, Utah because his book got published. And that’s how he ends up working as a mentor in the writing class Tanner is taking. The two meet and sparks fly, but how can they be together if Sebastian stands to lose everything important to him if word ever got out about their relationship?
The strict religion aspect is very well researched and written. I was hesitant to read this book because of this aspect, but I thought it was handled so well. You can tell a lot of research went into this and though it was of course painful to read about these anti-LGBTQIA+ views as a progressive reader, I still thought it was handled nicely. The Mormon church is never demonized, but we see both the good and the bad in a blunt and truthful way. Does it hurt? Yes. Will you feel every range of emotion possible? Yes. But it is worth it.
Tanner’s queer-positive family and their bumper stickers own my heart. Though the story is pretty tough to handle, I loved the fact that Tanner’s family played such a huge role in it. I loved that they are pretty much Tanner’s safe space, where they accept and support his sexuality and help him with little bumper stickers with motivational queer-positive phrases under his pillowcase. They actually talk to eachother and discuss and aww I just adored them. (Though really, what were you thinking moving your bisexual teen son to Provo, Utah and forcing him back in the closet to begin with?)
Tanner and Autumn’s friendship. I’m a sucker for friendships. This is a fact that has long been clear. So the story of best friends Tanner and Autumn and their own struggles touched my heart. Autumn was not just the token best friend. Tanner was not only about Sebastian. Though Sebastian occupied a lot of Tanner’s time and thoughts, Tanner actively tried to still be a good friend to Autumn. Their friendship wasn’t perfect, but they always did their best to talk and make it work and I loved them for it.
The setting is an actual writing class! I love books. Obviously. But did you know I always secretly dreamed of being a writer? I love writing, I just never actually started writing a story. But I still love hearing about the process of writing and so seeing these kids take an actual writing class where they write a book by the end of the class? I AM IN LOVE. I wish I could take this class. So naturally a lot of the story is about the book Tanner is writing. Which is basically the story of him and Sebastian. Which he can never let anyone read and is obviously a problem. But I get lots of writing content in this book so my little heart is happy for that at least.
And this got way longer than I expected it to. I can only say that I adored this book. If you love a good romance, boys kissing, intricate family and friend dynamics, emotions all over the place and a whole lot of ANGST, don’t doubt any longer and give this book a try. I hope you’ll love it as much as I did.
“This is how we reveal ourselves: these tiny flashes of discomfort, the reactions we can’t hide.”
“The things that I love about you aren’t going to go away when you go on your book tour, and they’re not going to go away when you go on your mission. I’ll still be here, and I’ll still be thinking about all those things. I’ll still be working on being a better person, a better friend, a better son. I’ll still be wondering what it would be like to be a better boyfriend for you. And you will be on your mission, thinking about how much you wish your weren’t gay.”
“But this is your life, and it will stretch out before you, and you are the only person who can make it whatever you want it to be.”
“He shakes his head, and I think this moment, right here, is when it really hits me that Sebastian’s identity isn’t queer. It’s not gay. It’s not even soccer player or boyfriend or son. It’s Mormon.”
“He’s fighting something, and he doesn’t even know it. He’s so far buried in his own dogma and his own world of shoulds that he can’t admit to himself that he’s into dudes, that he’ll always be into dudes, that it’s a piece of him, a perfect part of him, and it deserves admiration and respect and space the same way anything else about him does.”
“Auddy’s words twanged that dissonant chord inside me, the inner conflict about what it means to be bisexual. There’s the devil on one shoulder, the ignorant perception that I get from all sides, both inside and outside the queer community, who say bisexuality is really about indecision, that it’s impossible for bisexuals to be satisfied with one person and the label is a way to not commit. And then there’s the angel on the other shoulder— who the queer- positive books and pamphlets encourage me to believe— saying that no, what it means is I’m open to falling in love with anyone. I’m happy to commit, but the specific parts don’t matter as much as the person.”