Connor Major’s summer break is turning into a nightmare. 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.” But Connor’s troubles are only beginning. At Nightlight, everyone has something to hide from the campers to the “converted” staff and cagey camp director, and it quickly becomes clear that no one is safe. Connor plans to escape and bring the other kidnapped teens with him. But first, he’s exposing the camp’s horrible truths for what they are— and taking this place down.
This book had me from it’s synopsis. Queer teens plotting to take down the conversion therapy camp they’ve been forced to attend. I found out about this book a bit after I read and loved Foul Is Fair, a book about taking down horrible boys, so I was eager for more books where the world crashes down around terrible people. And this seemed like another one. Trigger warnings: homophobia, conversion therapy, transphobia, suicide, blood, gore
This book lived up to the yearning I had for it. It fulfilled by expectations and it will proudly sit on my shelf next to Foul Is Fair when it finally comes out.
This book is about queer pain. But it’s also about queer perseverance, queer strength, and how every queer person handles their identity differently. Sometimes it goes really dark, but it also makes sure that there’s light in hidden places as well. I feel like this book showcases a broad number of things and it showcases them really well.
I feel like it’s hard to talk about the individual aspects of this book, like the characters or their relationships, because what I felt like made this book so powerful is what lies underneath all of them. But I’m going to try to talk about both, because both made this book what it is.
I think one of my favorite parts of this book was how every queer person in this book is different. They all reacted differently and they all handled things differently. No one way is correct or better than the others. Some are more fearful, some are more angry, and some are more out and proud. All are alright. I really liked how each character was allowed to be queer in their own way. They were given the space to react and handle the horror around them in a way their brains could process. Just, I liked how many different queer experiences were in this book and how well each of them were written.
Speaking of all the queer characters, all of them have a special place in my heart. All the little kids, to the older ones. I loved all of them. I loved the ones who were scared and I loved the ones who were angry. I loved how there were the Moms of the group and I loved how even in the darkest of places, a boy with a puppy like personality could still exist. I liked Connor and his bravery and his anger and his fear and his whole journey. I liked how he came into his queerness and how real his pain felt. Nothing about his journey is shied away from. In all it’s messiness and hurtfulness, it’s there.
Another thing this book does really well is that is does everything above, really, really well, but it also incorporates a mystery and thriller elements. And neither take away from each other! While I felt a bit confused here and there with the mystery plot and I felt like the dramatics just weren’t quite there in some aspects, I still enjoyed reading it. Though, there were some moments, particularly at the end, where chills ran down my spine. Because wow. In the end, it was able to pull the story together and it pulled the emotional elements together in a way that brought them full circle.
The ending was spectacular. It fit so incredibly well with the book as a whole and I’m so happy with what happened. It’s happy and it’s painful and every emotion is there so starkly. Everything that happened is at play in the ending. It was just a really great way to end it.
This is a hard book. It shows the horrors of conversion therapy plainly. It shows how every queer person experiences their identity differently. It shows how there can be light, even in a place filled with the worse things imaginable. It’s a really great book and it accomplishes what it’s trying to do wonderfully. Thank you for visiting me in my loneliness.
Surrender Your Sons comes out September 15, 2020! You can add it on Goodreads and pre-order a copy in the meantime!
Thank you for reading!