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4.6 van de 5
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    This book affected me.

    4 stars — So after writing this review (below), I totes went and read through some other reviews, and even a 1 star one because I was curious. And while I hate when people have to be mean in their reviews, if I ignored the extremely negative way it was written, the reviewer actually made a lot of good points that had me nodding and saying “yeah, ok, yeah.” But you know what? Even with all those shortcomings, the main takeaway for me was that I was invested in this book, the things that *got to me* really impacted me and made me think, and so I kind of glossed over the things that bugged me. That’s a personal reader thing, you know? So I’m not saying this book is perfect by any means, but for *me* the good outweighed the bad. But I did dock it an extra half star because I couldn’t help but agree with those points. I feel so much. It’s been a long time since a book has just burrowed under my skin and stayed in my heart. There was something at once fascinating and heartbreaking about this story. I even found myself occasionally convinced that this was really written by Tanner, and…I don’t know, I had no other explanation for the author name. It just felt very authentic and real. I connected to the characters so thoroughly, and empathized with their struggles. What’s interesting is that I didn’t always like the choices that they made, or their mistakes, but I FELT their emotions and just so much. Just GAH! I’m not Mormon, and despite having a few friends that are, I really don’t know much about the religion. I have NO IDEA how a Mormon reading this book would feel, but from my completely outsider perspective, I didn’t feel like the authors were demonizing the religion in general. I felt like very clearly we were seeing characters that had unique perspectives (Tanner, his Mom) and how those perspectives might shape how they saw them. In general I felt like the vibe was that these were good people who do good things, but like many fundamental Christian religions, their viewpoints about the LGBT community, and being queer, is just never going to look anything but bad to a friend of the community. Honestly, the only other viewpoint that bled through fairly blatantly was about the overwhelmingly male leaders…which, again, from an outsiders perspective is weird. But I really appreciated that this didn’t feel like making fun of a religion, you know? It was interesting to have most of the book from Tanner’s perspective in that way, so that we don’t get to see much other than an outsider’s perspective, and even an outsider’s viewpoint on Sebastian’s thoughts (until the end). I ached for both boys. It’s funny, b/c we mostly see Tanner’s side of things, but my heart bled more for Sebastian. I don’t know the last time I spent so much time truly contemplating a book, even when I wasn’t reading it. It really made me think about how hard it must be for any queer kid who grows up in a church community where being queer is not OK. How odd must it be to love your church, to be so fulfilled by so much of what you do and believe, but then struggle with one aspect of yourself and how it doesn’t fit. To choose between being your true authentic self and the family and community you love and the faith you truly believe in. I CAN’T IMAGINE IT. I felt like Sebastian’s struggles were very real, well thought out, and shown in this book. Even at the end when (as someone outside the church) you started getting mad at his parents and their reactions, I still understood their struggle too. It’s just not easy. Now, obviously I loved Tanner too. The poor boy couldn’t help but wear his heart on his sleeve. He could be a bit of a dumbass, but he was just so earnest, you know? I loved how he fell in love, how he developed the crush, and his own struggles with knowing that going down that path lay heartbreak, but being unable to stop it. I loved seeing how much of a struggle it was for him to go from being out and accepted to moving to a town where you couldn’t do that anymore…or, at least not without challenges. It was an odd love story, b/c I felt it for sure…but in some ways it was a strange vehicle for change and growth in our characters…it was almost a side plot, even as it was the catalyst and central reason for the main plot. I don’t know if that makes sense. The secondary characters were all quite intriguing. There were just so many imperfect people doing the best they could. It felt very real. I loved so much about Tanner’s parents and family, even as I struggled with them at times. Tanner’s friendship with Autumn was so strange for me, and I struggle with how they interacted, but it felt real still. I really enjoyed the tiny glimpses of Manny and Mr. Fujita, especially Mr. F at the end. Sometimes I found myself struggling with following the narrative at its pace…my eyes would skip forward wanting answers, and then I would go back and read the details. I’m not sure if it was a style thing that

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