Kris’ New Year’s Readolution 3! To try a different author and/or genre once a month.
Thinking Straight by Robin Reardon
If only Taylor Adams had kept on lying to his parents, none of this would have happened. He wouldn’t have been shipped off to Straight to God, an institution devoted to “deprogramming” troubled teenagers and ridding them of their vices – whether it’s drugs, violence, or in Taylor’s case, other boys.
At Straight to God, such thoughts – along with all other reminders of Taylor’s former “sinful” life-are forbidden. Every movement is monitored, privacy is impossible, and no one – from staff to residents – is quite who they first appear to be. There’s Charles, Taylor’s clean-cut roommate, desperate to leave his past behind… Nate Devlin, a handsome, inscrutable older boy who’s alternately arrogant and kind… gorgeous, secretive Sean, who returns to Straight to God each year to avoid doing prison time for drugs.
Here, where piety can be a mask for cruelty and the greatest crimes go unpunished, Taylor will learn more than he ever dreamed about love, courage, rebellion, and betrayal-but the most surprising lessons will be the truths he uncovers about himself.
Why I bought it:
I was browsing the virtual shelves at The Book Depository and came across it. The blurb intrigued.
Dislike/like (ending on a high note):
Dislike~ Or more of a warning~ I have this fascination/horror with the things people do to each other in the name of religion. This is never more the case when it comes to what some so-called Christian people will do to adults and especially children in an attempt to make them conform to their interpretation of the Bible and Christianity. The idea of parents sending their gay children to an institution which would ‘straighten’ them out was particularly confronting for me and there were times in the book when I wavered between intense dislike for what I was reading to feelings of hope for future of the young protag.
Like~ What stood out about Thinking Straight for me was the character of Taylor. An extraordinarily strong, albeit imperfect (he’s a teenager after all), character with an amazing sense of self. Below are two quotes from the book that illustrate this faith in himself and his God as well as part of Taylor’s journey at Straight to God:
God, I know you love me. And you know I love you. I don’t know why you’ve brought me here unless it’s some kind of test. Can I live with these people and still be the person [gay] you made me? Can I believe, despite everything I’ll go through here that you don’t make mistakes? (p. 36)
Strickland and everyone else need to learn to love me for who I am, for who God made me, not to try and make this about them. Which means they have to question their own assumptions about homosexuality. They assume that God is just as uncomfortable with it as they are. So it’s as much a test for them as for me. And that’s why everyone is in here [Straight to God] together. (p. 197)
Dislike~ I have my own beliefs, but I am not someone who is, for want of a better word, ‘religiousy’. I did stumble at times with the use of text, stories and concepts from the Bible because I wasn’t always certain about their meaning. Having said that, the author did put a lot of this into context for the reader and Taylor himself reflected/had internal discussions about these subjects, thereby allowing readers like myself to gain a better understanding, if not an inkling.
Like~ A large part of why I liked this book was because of its potential; that is, I can imagine it having an enormous impact on those struggling with the idea of being a homosexual and a Christian. At the same time, I think it would have a meaningful and positive influence on those dealing with such issues in their families or communities.
So, what I think: I can’t say with all honesty that I ‘enjoyed’ Thinking Straight in the true sense of the word; however, I was satisfied at its conclusion and deeply enamoured with the character of Taylor. As I indicated above, I would highly recommend this book for those interested in exploring the themes of homosexuality and of Christianity.
‘Tasting’ is my version of a mini-review where I talk a (very) little about what I liked and disliked about a book as well as who I think the story will appeal to. Oh, and I’ve added a bit about why I picked up the book in the first place – sometimes this can be interesting to know.
This is sounds interesting, especially since the gay teen still has religious faith. It sounds more even-handed this way rather than an extreme right-and-wrong thing with religious people portrayed as being complete bigots. Thanks for this review, Kris.
I might have to order this.
And happy birthday, Mumma!
Yes, it was Val. Very different to read a story where the protag has such a strong faith in his beliefs and his sexuality and who also refuses to let anyone sway him into not being true to himself and the way he believed God had created him. It was very empowering because of this.
And you're very welcome. 🙂
Holy crap. I'm staying waaaay far away from that because I'll be angry for days and I know I won't finish it. I know it really happens, I know people face it daily, I just won't read about it.
It was pretty good, Sean. Lots of internal monologue, but because of Taylor's strong personal voice it worked rather than coming across as being overly self-indulgent.
I will make sure the Mumma gets your message. *g*
Tam 🙂 It's definitely not one for you I don't think, but it did remind me to some extent of James Buchanan's “Hard Fall” in terms of the main character being pretty comfortable with his own skin and his religious belief.
Sounds like a lot of thought went into the book but it's not something I'd like to read. I have a hard time dealing with Religious fanatics who are supposed to be about God and love and yet can do things like this and even worse in the name of said Religion.
Not my cup of tea 🙂
I did love Hard Fall very much though. Only a small part of the book dealt with the religious leaders and their feeling about the main character and his homosexuality and James' writing is awesome.
Lily: I'm also one of those people who becomes absolutely furious in the face of religous fundamentalism. As I indicated in the mini-review, this definitely was an issue that had me swerving from hating the situation to loving Taylor's strong sense of self.
As in your case, “Thinking Straight” will NOT be everyone's cuppa. 🙂
JB has a way of making such issues as religious belief, being in the closet, etc, work unbelieveably well and in very realistic ways. I think that is definitely due to his skills as a writer.
Oh no, this makes me so angry that I won't be able to finish.
I have a very strong dislike for people forcing their beliefs on other people no matter what religion.
Kuddo's to you Kris for finishing it but it is not my cup of tea.
Happy Birthday mumma 🙂 I hope that Kris had bought some nice pressies for you!
Ingrid, there will be – and are – a number of people who will feel similarly to you. 🙂
I actually think because it is in 1st POV and quite introspective that the reader becomes engrossed in Taylor's journey as well as his increasing thoughtfulness about why some people react to homosexuality and difference in the ways that they do.
The Mumma will be very pleased with all the messages and, yes, she will be very spoiled.
I'm wavering a bit on this. One one hand, like the others, I hate any books that deal with religious extremists. I know they exist and it makes my blood boil at how people twist Christianity to conform to their own agendas and bigotry. St Paul has a lot to answer for – grrrrr! I could rant on for ages about this!
On the other hand, the fact that the main protag has a faith and retains that faith even in the face of being treated badly sounds appealing.
Great 'taster', Kris.
It's a toughie, isn't it, Jen. 🙂
Like a number of you, I also had concerns but was intrigued enough by the fact that it was a ya with these themes to be able to give it a go.
Reading it was definitely challenging at times, but the bottom line is that it worked and was a very satisfying – even inspirational – read.
Oh, and thanks. 🙂
Mmmhhh… it sounds like a book I would like to shove down some people (I unfortunately know)'s throat. *sigh* Would it help, I wonder? Bigots are so incredibly hard-headed and righteous. I don't think it's possible to swerve them. Anyway, from what you've written Thinking Straight seems a great book teenagers and parents should read.
And Happy Birthday to your Mumma! My Mom's bday was last Friday and I, as the loving daughter I am, made her her favourite dessert… which is also mine… mh… what? She did eat a piece of it, I swear! 😉
“Mmmhhh… it sounds like a book I would like to shove down some people (I unfortunately know)'s throat.”
Sounds fun, Sara, can I join you? 😉 I agree with you that some people would refuse to be swayed by the arguments made in this book; however, it is something that all many should read in order to gain a different perspective about Christians who happen to be gay.
I'm off to see the Mumma now and will pass on your wishes and also tell her your story because it will make ME look good. LOL.
Great review/ taster, Kris.
I've had this book in my TBR pile for awhile. Been putting it off because I know it's going to make me angry. Unfortunately, living in the Bible belt south, I see these issues way too often.
Hope your mum had a great birthday! And hope she liked her cookies. 😉
I strongly believe it's important for writers of GLBT fiction not to shy away from issues of importance to the “community.” (I hate using that word but can't think of a better one at the moment.)
Thought-provoking doesn't have to be synonymous with depressing or infuriating. I've read plenty of books like this one–which intrigues me, although I don't read YA–that end on a high note.
Hell, what's more uplifting than overcoming odds? Or hostile forces? That's the basis of conflict, after all, and therefore the basis of all engaging fiction.
Often, to feel genuinely hopeful or even triumphant, one first has to be on the brink of defeat.
Whoops, forgot to add I hope the Mumma thoroughly enjoyed her birthday and enjoys many, many more!
Thanks for the taste. I'm not sure I could read the book and want to throw my ereader across the room. I think I would be so infuriated at A) the parents for sending their son to that place in the first place and B) the people who were trying to “cure” him. Not sure. Although it does sound good! lol
Did Mumma have a great birthday? What book did you end up buying her?
Richelle: We don't have the equivalent of the Bible belt here in Australia or if we do I must be completely oblivious to it. However, we also have our conservatives and fundamentalists who like to trot out their rhetoric whenever there's a hint of equality for gay and lesbian couples going forward in our government.
Very frustrating, but surprisingly fun to watch them go red in the face when somone actually takes the time to argue their beliefs with them…. not that I would know anything about that. *GRIN*
KZ: You are all kinds of awesome. 🙂
Thought provoking is a perfect phrase for describing this book and I think it is also a really important point for authors to consider when it comes to the 'conflict' of dealing with prejudice to homosexuality or any conflict in a plot for that matter.
Conflict is not something that always has to be violent or overly dramatic. It can be something more, I guess, meaningful that stimulates and engages the protag/s and thus the reader with the themes of the book. These are the kinds of stories that I find particularly challenging and in many ways the more worthwhile as a reader.
Tracy: It is a paperback so would be less expensive to throw against a wall then an ereader. 😉 It was definitely infuriating, but at the same time positive and uplifting because of the character of Taylor. It was good. 🙂
BTW, the Mumma left a message for you all on Monday's post thanking you for her b'day wishes and for her books.
I ended up getting her a batch of books including Caught Running, Someone Killed His Editor, Lessons 1, Faith & Fidelity and a couple of others.