Title: Surrender Your Sons
Author: Adam Sass
Publisher: North Star Editions
Release Date: September 15, 2020
Genre(s): YA Fiction, Conversion Therapy
Page Count: 392
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Today author Adam Sass tweeted : "After 7 years, 12 revisions from scratch, and 110 rejections, Surrender Your Sons has arrived."
After reading this book, in a strange way I could understand the rejections. This is a difficult book to embrace at the start. It is daunting to dive into what looks to be a heartbreaking tale of children forced into gay conversion therapy. But .... here's the thing. There's just something about Adam Sass' book that is equal parts unspeakably sad, affirming and resilient, uplifting and bizarrely humorous at times.
Connor Major comes out to his uber-religious mother, at the insistance of his boyfriend, who assures him that he's feel so much better out of the closet. Except, when Connor is kidnapped in the middle of the night and taken to an island 2 hours from Costa Rica, it is because his own mother has paid for him to go through a gay conversion program there with Nightlight Ministries. Their tagline is "Surrounder your sins" and life on the island involves pretend date nights with members of the opposite sex, writing daily in an expulsion diary, never touching another boy with your hands, and any number of petty rules and regulations, as well as the constant threat of much worse "discipline."
Head mistress "Miss Manners" Ramona is the perfect symbol of the camp. She wears a bright lemon yellow dress (think 50's housewife) ... with the filthy blackened hem. What occurs at Nightlight is the dirty underbelly of the Christian edict to "love the sinner, hate the sin." I don't want to spoil the intricate plot, but Sass blends a rich tapestry of the campers - sweet Marcos, Molly, tiny little Owen, the dainty-wristed Beginner boys - Ben Briggs, former camper and now employee, the Reverend Stanley Packard, Karaoke Bill, with the lingering mystery of Ricky Hannigan. Add in a strong vibe of "Lord of the Flies" and the book grabs your interest and does not let go.
Probably my only niggle was that all the action of the book takes place in an incredibly fast-paced 48 hours, but the rich character development, the heartbreaking reveal, the courage and resilience of the campers is so well-done. 5 stars and a Recommended Read.
I received an ARC from the Publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for a honest review.