His SAT scores bombed, the old man he delivers meals to died, and when he came out to his religious zealot mother, she had him kidnapped and shipped off to a secluded island. His final destination: Nightlight Ministries, a conversion therapy camp that will be his new home until he “changes.” – Goodreads.com
I received a copy of this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
One of the first things I really enjoyed about this book was that the cast was about 90% queer. The next thing was that although this is a book about queer trauma, it also treated queer characters as regular, real, different people. There was no “one type” of gay, lesbian, bi or trans person. Each person had a different set of morals, different needs and wants and goals. It’s nice to see queer characters written this way. It definitely helps that this book was own voices, and that Sass worked so hard and long on it.
The story itself is somewhat of a thriller. It has Lord of the Flies vibes, in the sense that there are a bunch of kids trying to survive on an island, though this time there are adults involved. The stories on and off the island intertwined well, and little clues were given throughout as to who was responsible for what, or who was connected to who. These clues weren’t overt, or too subtle. They were just right for you to be able to discover the meaning of them at the same pace as our main cast of characters.
The subject itself being conversion camps, religion trumping law, abuse of queer people, etc. is harrowing, but it was handled well. I especially enjoyed and appreciated the imperfect ending. The acknowledgement that often our lives don’t end up wrapped up prettily and tied with a bow. That it does take therapy, medication, support for anyone to survive trauma.
Overall, I would recommend this novel to pretty much anyone who enjoys thrillers, mysteries, queer literature, own-voices. Basically to everyone. This is one of those reads where no matter who you are, you will take something valuable from it.
Available 15 September, 2020.
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