I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
What is it about?
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. (goodreads)
Book: Surrender Your Sons | Author: Adam Sass | Publisher: Flux | Release Date: 15.09.2020 | pages: 392 | genre: contemporary YA thriller | rep: gay, bi, lesbian, trans, black, latino | TW: abuse, violence, homophobia, internalized homophobia, abduction, conversion therapy
What did I think?
I don’t know what I expected but it definitely wasn’t this. Going into this, I knew that there would be some heavy, dark content but I didn’t think it would get this dark. Now, my main problem was that I didn’t realize this was a thriller until I read the author’s note. And I don’t normally read thrillers, they just aren’t my thing. I was taken aback a bit, but I started reading anyway and now I can safely say that I’m glad I did. Surrender your Sons wasn’t what I expected but that didn’t make it a bad book. To be honest, I was surprised by how much the story captured me.
And now I’m sitting here, trying to write this review and to put my thoughts and feelings into proper words but it’s hard. Hard because while the topics this book centers around are so heavy but on the other hand it’s so incredibly important to talk about them. Because this is a story about the darkest places a human can go to, exploring the ugly sides of the human soul and human behaviour, but it is also a deeply hopeful one about overcoming and fighting against that dark stuff that seems to be in all of us.
Connor, the protagonist, has a bad coming out to his mother who sends him away on a summer camp that turns out to be a conversion camp for young people. There, he gets to know the other campers, each of them having their own stories and backgrounds and being in various states of not-okay. I thought Connor was a great protagonist, brave and strong because he had to be but also full of hope that things would get better. He helps others but knows where limits are and when it would be better to try again another time, he is loyal to people he likes and is also a bit hotheaded. He is a very complex character, shaped by his surroundings yet always true to himself. Even though this book doesn’t cover a lot of time, the way Connor transforms during the story and how his relationships towards other characters change are really well written. I also liked how the other campers and their stories were written. They’ve been at camp for a longer time, they have different experiences that influenced them in some way or another. All of them have experienced things that won’t leave them and that have shaped them.
What was a bit off for me was the pacing. As I already mentioned, the story doesn’t cover a lot of time and I think it would have worked better if it would have covered more. There was so much happening and I thought days had passed but then the actual time was said and I got just confused.
Apart from that, I thought this book was really good. I liked the mixture of darkness and hope and how gay it was. It’s an important story that covers things we should definitely talk about more because while we may think conversion therapy isn’t really a thing anymore, it very much is and it is dangerous and we have to discuss it. This book will lead you through a lot of emotions, both good and bad ones and it will make you think. While I definitely recommend Surrender your Sons, I also recommend to read the trigger warnings and to take them seriously.