Cover Image: Surrender Your Sons

Surrender Your Sons

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Member Reviews

Part thriller and part coming-out story, this YA novel defies easy categorization. But what cannot be denied is that Adam Sass has written a page turner that captures with humor and sensitivity the hopes, trauma and angst of being young and queer in the United States today. At the same time, it will have you on the edge of your seat, as its unlikely ban of heroes and heroines does battle at a conversion camp on a remote island outside the United States. Although the action at times verges on the fantastical and absurd, it is a fun read that does not shy away from tough topics and emotions.
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I have been waiting and waiting to read this book, and was so excited to get an ARC from NetGalley! This book lived up to the hype I built in my mind the second I saw the cover and read the synopsis. From the very first sentence, this book is beautiful.

Connor Major, the protagonist, is insanely likable. He's funny, decisive, and mature. I loved how he was able to see people in complicated lights--even as they are making his life a living hell. He holds space for other people to be complicated. He also reads like a teenager. That he is all these things at once is incredible, and it is what I think makes this such a magical book. The premise is dark, and this book follows it to dark places, but Connor's witty voice keeps even the darkest parts lit--a NightLight of his own. He's amazing! And he's not even my favorite character. That honor goes to the hilarious Molly, who gets some of the best one-liners in the book like "Oh, oh really? Should I be careful on the ladder that is obviously broken? Should I?"

If you're debating reading this book, stop debating and pre-order. It's a delight. I hope Adam Sass writes another book soon--I'd read anything he writes from here on out.
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A unique story. We focus on Connor and his fellow hostages at Nightlight and through them see the many ways that lack of accepting and loving families affects them. The story is well woven and each character is beautifully alive. As the mom of an LGBTQ son, it is so hard for me to understand the level of fear and hate one person can have for another, especially a parent for their child. Sass does a wonderful job of sharing the impact this has but also the significance of support from the family you make when you don't get it from the one you have. Dark with serious themes, the book balances the mood well so that it is equal parts hopeful and sad. For those who might need them, be sure to read the author's note at the beginning before starting the book.
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Thank you to the publisher for this ARC.   The story was very fast paced and keeps the reader engaged, as they want to know what happens to Connor and the others.   It was part thriller, part horror (the fact that a place like Nightlight could and can exist), and drama.   The main character Connor is likeable and you want him to be safe & happy.  The ending seemed a bit unrealistic that most of the families of the Nightlight escapees were welcoming them back and open to their identities after shipping them off to be reformed.    It seemed possible it was set up for a sequel and I would be willing to read that if it means that Miss Manners get caught.
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So first things first, I was provided an arc of this book by the publisher on NetGalley. Never say wishes don’t come true haha. Now, if I’m being honest the first thing that drew me to this book is the yellow front cover. Not only is yellow one of my favourite colours, it’s also severely underused in the cover art world and my bookcase is crying out for it, so I will definitely be purchasing a copy of this as well. I was also very nervous to read this book, because of the topic of conversion camps, but I'm so glad that I pushed past that.

Surrender Your Sons is an absolute roller coaster of a book and while I usually try to avoid including spoilers in my reviews I just can’t do that here. This book made me feel SO MUCH that I need to discuss is at length, so please be aware there will be some minor spoilers but nothing plot breaking. 

When I was ¼ in it was maybe 3 stars. I found Connor to be frustrating, he’d go backwards and forwards between being obsessed with his current boyfriend and getting back to him, and then flirting with Marcos, one of the other campers, and so it kind of made any feelings he had for Ario seem a bit?? Fake?? I guess? The further in to the plot we got however, the higher the star rating rose. 

Connor and the rest of the campers are scared, they’re children. They’re in a place where they’re being told all sorts of lies about themselves. But oh my god are they resilient. From the ones who try their best to protect the younger kids, to the ones gathering evidence since they arrived in an attempt to bring Nightlight down, every single one of the campers was so, so strong.

For Connor, Ario was the only queer person he was aware that he knew, and he provided a safe space despite the fact that he pressured Connor to come out before he was ready. And Ario was also pulling away, which made Connor paranoid and possessive. Marcos, on the other hand, was protective and attentive and we all know that trauma bonds people. While Ario’s parents were accepting, both Connor and Marcos had been sent to Nightlight by their family. They experienced the horror of it together, and if that isn’t shared trauma I don’t know what is.

Surrender Your Sons is about generational queer trauma. It’s about the way that inflicting this kind of damage to even just a handful of people can resonate outwards like a small rock thrown into a river creates larger ripples. From the younger members of the group, to 17 year old Connor, to some of the camp workers themselves who were returning campers so caught up in the lie and the Reverend’s power that they came back to work for him. And underlying all that is the story of Ricky, an older gay man who Connor had served meals on wheels to before Ricky passed away. 

Generations of trauma squeezed into one book. It packs a hell of a punch, lemme tell you.

I read it in a day. If it had stretched over into day two I would have had to sleep not knowing what happened to the group. I would have had to go to work and sneak tense 15 min reads into my breaks and lunch. This was not a situation I was prepared to deal with and so I stayed up until 1am or so, with a belting headache, intermittently screaming at a group chat about how intense it all was.

By the time I was at the last few pages I was exhausted mentally, physically and emotionally but oh my god was it worth it. This book was a masterpiece of character growth and complexity. It had so many twists and turns in it that I almost got car sick without going anywhere. Some chapters were very hard to read, and I cried several times but I also laughed. And after that teaser of an ending if we don’t get a sequel where 5 years down the line Connor is leading an elite team of ex campers to track down Miss Manners I will cry (I doubt we will actually get that, but if you think i'm not going to run fake scenarios through my head of this exact thing then you are WRONG).

I recommend this wholeheartedly. But please do go into it with open eyes. Due to the nature of the plot there is discussion of suicide and self harm, of murder and religion and hate crime. It isn’t a book for the faint-hearted, but if you’re willing to give it a chance it’ll wow you.
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Surrender Your Sons is a V E R Y intense book... which is to be expected when the main character is kidnapped and sent to a conversion therapy camp I suppose. This book was a very emotional and relatable read, with the main character Connor often feeling like he struggles with being gay, even before his religious fanatic of a mother orders him to be sent to a very creepy and secluded conversion therapy camp called Nightlife. What surprised me most of all was just how well the central mystery worked - with a lot of history to the different characters, working out how the different parts of the plot fit together was very satisfying, with the final few chapters and ending almost literally taking my breath away with how intense they were.


I really enjoyed getting to know all the other characters in addition to Connor; although we didn't really spend loads of time with most of them, they were all well defined and sympathetic - all the other campers in particular had their moments to shine. I also liked the writing style, and I felt like we got to know Connor a lot more intimately than with other YA thrillers. The one character I would've liked to spend more time with was Connor's mother, because although the epilogue was great I would've liked a more personal resolution to that particular thread. 

Overall, this was a tightly crafted masterpiece that made it super satisfying peeling back the layers of mystery intrigue, that was often quite disturbing in depicting the reality for a lot of queer kids out there even today.
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CW: suicide and talk about an attempt, parental and other abuse, punishments, panic attacks. It takes place in a conversion therapy camp, so be prepared for a lot of homophobia. 

I stumbled upon this book while browsing on twitter and I thought it was such an intriguing premise. I never expected my Wish for it would be granted on Netgalley but as soon as it was, I couldn’t think of reading anything else but this. And wow was I not wrong. I really don’t have words to describe what I’m feeling right now after finishing it. 

The first thing I can say is that this book is unputdownable. Once I started reading, I just couldn’t even imagine putting it down till I reached the end and knew what had happened to all the characters. It’s that engaging and interesting. It also captures the teenage voice and their emotions very well. The book is very tightly plotted, with each little thing being revealed very slowly but still keeping the mystery alive, and I never guessed the complete truth. As most of the book takes place in a religious conversion camp, I was expecting it to be very horrifying - and the author manages to capture the horror of what’s happening and the terror the young kids feel, while also showing the beautiful solidarity that forms between the kids themselves. There are friendships, romantic relationships and platonic bonds that form and they are what give us joy in an otherwise bleak situation. This is truly a story about finding light in darkness, and strength in adversity. 

And what a great ensemble of characters this book has. The story might be told only through Connor’s POV, but we meet so many amazing young queer kids who are put in unimaginable situations and the strength and resilience they show is highly admirable. Most of this story takes place in just about two days, but the author really lets us get to know each of them very intimately - their stories, their inherent natures and what they are ready to do to get out of the hellhole they are in. Connor, Marcos, Molly, Darcy, Lacrishia, Jack, Vance and all the other children - I loved every single one of them and was rooting for them throughout because they deserve all the love and protection. 

The author also doesn’t shy away from showing the brutality of the people running the camp, but at the same time is able to create moments where we even sympathize with them. This is masterful writing and just emphasizes the point that the cycle of abuse is real and people who do monstrous things may have suffered in the past themselves, but that doesn’t make them any less predatory. And while it’s wonderful to see the queer kids fight back and stand up for themselves, the author also gives a reality check that out in the world, there will still be people who will trust the predators and zealots, and punishing a few of them doesn’t make the bigotry go away. The story is also very open about the long term harm that these kids suffer and how much positive support and psychological help they need to be able to get through it all. There is also the harsh reality that it’s not always easy or possible be out of the closet or to cut off homophobic family members and how living with them can be an ordeal in itself. 

To conclude, this book is an intense mystery that gets hold of you on the first page and doesn’t let you go till the end. And despite the horrific setting of the story and the brutality that ensues, it’s characters are full of heart, humor and hope and we just keep wishing that they’ll make it out alright. There are a lot of uncomfortable truths are that are present in this story and that’s precisely why I think we should all read it.
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This book blew me away and it broke me. My heart? In pieces, barely held together. I won't say anything, I won't spoil. I'm heartbroken by this book. Broken. Still super shaken. Unputdownable, heavy, raw, real, painful, hopeful. I'm full of emotions, I can't seem to think straight (pun 100% intended). This book needs to be read, shared and loved. You need this in your life. Trust me on that. It'll frustrate you, anger you, to no end! But it'll also give you so much hope.

The way it was written was just very easy to follow, and the hard themes, this way, just hit harder than if the book was written in a very complex way. The good characters were well described and you cheered for them, while you felt the hate from and for the bad characters. Through the pages I felt everything. Just a few words describing how these kids were treated, how ugly the world is for queer people, and you felt it, right in the heart. Such simple words, on a page, giving you such strong emotions.

I felt that Adam Sass did a magnificent job with this book. Showing how parents think they are doing their kids a favor by not accepting them and trying to change them in the worst way possible. He showed us many realities, all felt real and made me realized how they are real for someone.

I loved this book, how it broke me, because this is not a good situation. Things are bad but there's hope, and this book shows you all the ways things can go. It's raw, it's honest, it slaps you in the face. I can't recommend it enough. All the stars!!
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