Published by HarperTeen on August 30th 2016
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I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Joanna Gordon has been out and proud for years, but when her popular radio evangelist father remarries and decides to move all three of them from Atlanta to the more conservative Rome, Georgia, he asks Jo to do the impossible: to lie low for the rest of her senior year. And Jo reluctantly agrees.
Although it is (mostly) much easier for Jo to fit in as a straight girl, things get complicated when she meets Mary Carlson, the oh-so-tempting sister of her new friend at school. But Jo couldn’t possibly think of breaking her promise to her dad. Even if she’s starting to fall for the girl. Even if there’s a chance Mary Carlson might be interested in her, too. Right?
This book tackles the subject of faith for queer kids, which is something that I’ve hardly seen any of in YA books. That being said, it’s disappointing to me that I couldn’t give this a five star rating just based on the plot alone. Unfortunately, some of the subplots and all of the ridiculous teen drama was extremely off putting to me at times. I did really like some of the characters, but others didn’t have very great character development, in my opinion. The lack of communication between two of the main characters also really bothered me. So while it had the potential to be an incredible book, it ultimately fell a bit short for me, but that doesn’t mean the overall message isn’t an important one.
The story ultimately revolves around this issue: can a queer teen be a faithful Christian? Joanna’s father is a evangelist radio pastor, but he’s also extremely comfortable with her sexuality. However, when they make the move to a more conservative town in Georgia, he asks her to “lie low” with her sexuality. Jo also has her own little time slot on her dad’s radio show where she talks about what it’s like to be a teenager of faith and how relationships, friendships, and everything else work for her and her friends. Her dad promises her that she’ll be able to talk about what it means to be a teen of faith while also being queer at some point, so that’s why she agrees to lie low for awhile. I just thought it was so important how the author explored this subject in such an informative and fascinating way. It’s something that queer teens and even people who are a little confused about how that all works should read it as well.
The supporting characters were definitely one of my favorite things about this book. I loved Jo’s new group of friends: Gemma, George, Betsy, Jake, Mary Carlson, and B.T.B. I also loved her new step-mom Elizabeth, who was a lot more accepting than her own mother. I wasn’t crazy about Dana, who was Jo’s best friend from home. She was funny, but her subplot was completely pointless.
Like I already said, the characters were interesting but the plot wasn’t so great at times. I couldn’t stand the lack of communication between Mary Carlson and Jo. On one hand, I do sort of get why she was hesitant to tell her the truth about her past, but then it reached a point where it was insane not to tell her. Meaning, if she was so in love with her, why not be honest? How could you possibly think that breaking up with someone is a better alternative to just telling the truth? It makes absolutely no sense to me.
In the end, this certainly wasn’t a bad book by any means. As already stated, I do believe that the subject matter is vitally important for all people. It addresses faith in such an honest way like I’ve never seen in YA before. My complaints came from the unnecessary drama, pointless subplots, and characters not being well developed. I hope that this book works better for you guys!