Cover Image: Surrender Your Sons

Surrender Your Sons

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Member Reviews

A few weeks after I came out to my parents, which was age wise around 24, my Mom called me to say she could have someone at my house tomorrow to help me. Specifically she was referring to Exodus international, a now defunct faith baith organization that worked to bring homosexuals out of their ‘lifestyle’. The irony was the founding members ending up falling in love. (Can’t make this stuff up!)
Suffice to say I declined, she mellowed, and now I have a gay recruitment center runout of our basement that has initiated thousands into the world of queer. 

Seriously though, having that in my background I couldn’t wait to read Adam Sass’s new book. The story centers on a teen, Connor Major being raised by a single mother who has found both solace and support from the local church and has fallen under the spell of its charismatic pastor. When young Connor comes out,  his mother arranges for Connor to be taken to what is essentially a boot camp, the kind of place you hear about for troubled teens taken against their will to straighten out, but this is to LITERALLY straighten out. But on top of figuring out how to get away from this crazy campsite, Connor is wrapped up in a bigger mystery at play that could possibly involve a murder and a coverup, which he’s determined to get to the bottom of even if it could kill him. 

This was a mixed bag for me. First, kudos to the art department for a crazy cool cover it took me a second to really see! Tonally this falls somewhere in the vein of a campy CW show, with a cast of toned hunky guys, some smart snarky lesbians and an ultra witty protagonist. 

Yet despite writing about the truly harmful effects these reparative therapies have on queer people, the not surprising reveals and witty banter diffused a lot of the impact and drama and I found myself doing a few eyes rolls. I think I was expecting something closer to Gerrard Conley’s, “Boy Erased” and less ‘But I’m A Cheerleader’. And while much of the book is certainly entertaining, overall it wasn’t quite the home  run I was expecting. The book comes out next Tuesday the 15th, and thank you to the tagged publisher and @netgalley for the advance copy. Have you read this? Planning to? And if so, what did you think? Lmk in the comments!
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When Connor is sent, against his will, to a gay conversion therapy camp, he quickly decides he’s not just escaping: he’s helping rescue the other kids and taking the camp down. This book packs in a lot: heart, thrills, and a wicked sense of humor. You will fall in love with these characters and think about them long after the last page. One of my top books of 2020.
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I received an advanced copy of Surrender Your Sons through NetGalley, so I could share my review with you!

Content Warnings: This book contains instances of homophobia, conversion therapy, transphobia, suicide, and familial rejection of identity

Something’s always been a little bit off in Connor Major’s ultra-conservative small town.  The church preacher is revered by the entire population, including Connor’s mother.  All this led him to keep his sexuality a secret for many years, but when he finally takes the plunge and comes out, things go more wrong than he ever could have expected.  His mother has him abducted and sent off to a conversion camp on an isolated island, where he has no hope of leaving until he “changes his ways.”  Run by his home-town preacher, Nightlight Ministries is a brutal anti-queer conversion therapy program.  Connor hopes he can make it through the camp and escape before too long, but when things take a turn for the violent, he is forced to question what secrets this so-called “camp” is hiding.

You can get your copy of Surrender Your Sons on September 15th from Flux Books!

Surrender Your Sons was compulsively readable!  I tore through the story, desperate to know what would happen to Connor at each turn.  I am not normally someone who enjoys reading thrillers, but this book met the perfect balance between intense and believable.  The plot was quite dark and might be triggering for readers who are sensitive towards the previously mentioned content warnings. 

My Recommendation-
If you love high-stakes stories about LGBTQ+ kids fighting for their truths, Surrender Your Sons should definitely be on your to-read list.  This book would be a great choice for readers looking for a fast-paced fall read!
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Enjoyment: 4/5
Execution: 4.5/5
Final rating: 4.25/5

A brilliantly written queer YA thriller! This book had me uneasy and on the edge of my seat for the whole ride. It cycles you through every emotion, and then a couple more for good measure, with some jarring plot twists and jaw dropping moments.

Connor Majors is seventeen. He’s gay in a small, highly religious town, and when his boyfriend pressures him to come out, things go wrong in all the worst ways. He’s kidnapped in the middle of the night to go on a “vacation in Costa Rica” paid for by his mother. As we soon figure out, it’s actually a conversion camp, and Connor and the rest of the kids must figure out a plan to escape.

First off to all potential readers, **please mind the content warnings** (I will include a list at the bottom of this review that may contain spoilers). This is a book that tackles some really heavy and dark topics, and may not be for everybody! There are some light moments and lots of humor, and the writing is fantastic, the characters are interesting and diverse, but there’s a lot to deal with here. For some people, that’s fine, but there was definitely a lot that made me uncomfortable. 

The story is told from Connor’s point of view, but the other characters are equally vibrant. I loved all the other campers, and they’re all well developed. My favorite part of any book is the characters, and this one is definitely no exception. You go through the story rooting for all of the campers, feeling their pain, and wanting, so desperately, a happy ending for each one of them. However, I was not a fan of Ario and how he kept pressuring Connor to come out, which soured my read on their relationship.

As a few other reviewers have mentioned, the pacing felt off to me. A lot happens in an extremely short amount of time, and while I’m pretty good at suspending my disbelief, I would’ve liked things to be a little more stretched out/developed, especially given the depth of the friendships and relationships that came up. The majority of the action happens in the last half of the book, which makes the first half feel like when you're going up in a roller coaster and bracing for the fall, and I don't necessarily mean that in a bad way, but in a way that there was this constant undercurrent of dread and anxiety, which I think is great for a thriller and works well in this book.

While this is not the book for everybody, I think this is a great book that hits some really important and heavy subjects. Conversion therapy is, unfortunately, not a work of fiction, and there is a lot of basic rights that the queer community still fights for today. Sass touches on many of these topics in a great way, and I look forward to reading more from him.

Thank you to the publisher, the author, and Netgalley for an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Content warnings:
Homophobia including internalized homophobia, religious homophobia, murder/suicide, conversion camp, religious zealotry, large age gap in relationship, sexual content, mental/physical abuse, violence, abduction, pressure to come out
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Surrender Your Sons is a thriller that took me on an emotional roller coaster. It broke my heart in a million ways and managed to put it back together again. Whether it be the intense terror of the setting, the conversion camp, the very real undercurrent of danger, and the homo/transphobia, or the moments of laughter, of friendships formed in adversity, or self-acceptance. I experienced them all throughout Surrender Your Sons. I encourage future readers to check out the trigger warnings, because I think that a lot of the tension and thriller vibes in this book revolve around the very real fear of being a queer person in this environment.

Knowing that feeling of fear of being found out and excluded. Having these fears manifest not only in reality, but in this nightmare-ish camp setting of violence, where one's existence is denied. At time it was a little much for me and I had to step back, but I always wanted to keep reading. Surrender Your Sons is action packed, taking place over the span of a few days. It's a story revolving around mystery and secrets. The ways we are taught to suppress our queer identities, and the ripple effects of this pain, and the journey to remove ourselves from toxic settings and relationships.
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A thrilling survival tale set on an remote island off the coast of Costa Rica, Adam Sass’ engrossing YA debut Surrender Your Sons follows Connor Major, a gay Illinois teen whose recent coming out lands him at at a conversion therapy camp run by a pack of violent zealots. Aimed at teen readers but something adults will also enjoy, this one’s a real page-turner – Sass throws countless obstacles in his young protagonist’s path and it’s a joy to accompany him as he attempts to outsmart his captors. The sarcastic, music-loving Connor is an immensely likable character, and the other queer kids in his company are all richly imagined with engaging stories of their own. Sass weaves a complex tale – the story includes more than one villain and blurs the line between victim and aggressor once we learn the secret history of this camp. Intense, funny, and at times terrifying, this is one of those novels that constantly screams “make me into a movie!” Extra points for a perfectly placed RuPaul’s Drag Race reference.
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Surrender your sons is a nightmare come true for queen folk. Conversation camps are real and still present in our society. Sass writes suspense amazingly and the action scenes are written fluently. The writing is precise and punchy. You feel the emotional pain of our lead and the dread of this nightmare place of a camp. I bowed out not reading after having my wish granted to read surrender our sons because it feels all too real reading it as a ace gay person. But I had to push through it because this book is THAT IMPORTANT.   Sass deserves all the praise it has received so far and deserves even more. It fucking deserves to be a bestseller. Queen people  we can survive and prosper and we will
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This was a great read. It reflected the reality of many teens and the struggles they face, despite growing up in 2020 USA. When you look at the president and his treatment of his citizens though one can understand how people suffer so badly under his regime. Sass really used words well to pull at our heart strings and did so even more heart wrenchingly when he introduced the love interest too. I really enjoyed this read and think it should be encouraged upon many for there is a lot to learn here and a lot that shoudl be taught to many people, both young and old, across the globe.
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A group of gay teens are kidnapped and taken to an island off of Costa Rica where a conversion therapy 'program' is run. Yeah, pretty horrendous - as in torture and abuse, weird and weirder assignments to convince these kids they aren't gay, and a deep dive into the history of the pastor who runs it. Solid topic to explore in this YA book, yet I am torn in my opinions. On one hand, I appreciated how the author dealt with parental issues surrounding their kids coming out, how religion is twisted into a way that truly damages kids irreparably, and how difficult life can be made for gay teens who are struggling with their sexual identity. However, I struggled with the length of this book (almost 400 pages was waaaay too long, in my opinion), the jumping around through time periods, the implausibility and improbability of much of the plot line (especially on the island!), and the tone of the narrator's voice. I read the author's note at the beginning of the use of awkward humor and why he does it, but it wasn't my favorite.
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This is a tough one to review, but I'll start by saying it's one of my favorite books of the year. Here's why:

- It's an LGBTQ+ thriller/adventure and an own voices story.

- It paints a picture of the difficulties children and teens face when coming out to their loved ones and how sometimes those family members are disgusting crap people who don't or won't accept it.

- The wide array of characters and backgrounds as well as the suspense/mystery aspect.

- Connor's headstrong attitude and loyalty to those around him. All the characters had well-developed, distinctive personalities, right down to Marcos' relentless nervous finger-snapping.

- The setting. The Costa Rican jungle was thick and well-secluded; the perfect spot for a hidden island conversion camp.

- The play on words. The sign at Nightlight says "Surrender Your Sins".

This book was just so good, you guys. It was sad, brutal, painful, mysterious, upsetting, difficult to read, hopeful, scary... I felt so many emotions while reading. The children in this story ranged from elementary school-aged to late teen. It was so sad to read about these young children sent away to this awful conversion therapy camp by those who were supposed to protect them. The even sadder thing is that these camps are real. The thought of children being abused and tortured into "fixing" themselves is disturbing. This story could be real. It is sickening and maddening that these parents are so unaccepting of their children. It's been a few weeks since I finished this book and it took me this long to get my thoughts together enough to write anything down. When it was over, I just sat and pondered. I thought about my own kids and how they could never say or do anything to make me love them less; that I could never put them down for being who they are; that I hope they always feel comfortable enough to tell me things.

This book discusses a lot about coming out and one of the big takeaways is not to let anyone pressure you to come out. It should be done when the person is ready and not a moment sooner. This struggle was a main theme for Connor throughout the book and something that he tossed over in his mind often when he finds himself hauled off to this camp.

I really don't want to give much away, plot-wise. So I'm going to stop here and tell you that you MUST give this book a read.
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Loved this book!! It's definitely one of my favorites now, and I thought the lgbtq+ representation was amazing. I will certainly be recommending this book.
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Thank you Netgalley, for granting my wish.

I wanted to love it, I firmly believe that gay conversion camps need to be discussed more, but I just don't believe this is the book for it. The pacing was off-a murder mystery, blossoming romance, and escaping an island all in one day just wasn't plausible for me. And these kids were in life and death situations, but all the main character could think about was how hot a fellow camper was. The language throughout the book was extremely graphic-it had everything from suicide to homophobic slurs. I do appreciate the author's boldness, but there are definitely some triggers in this novel that should be mentioned before beginning the novel.
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I always love reading books about characters who are nothing like me because it helps expand my knowledge and understanding about lives not like mine. And in Adam Sass's debut novel, Surrender Your Sons, the reader is taken on a journey with recently-out Connor Major to a conversion therapy camp. Yes, they do really exist.

Connor's boyfriend, Ario, insisted he come out - Ario was already out - but Connor's mother was deep into the religious beliefs of their town church and the local reverend. The reverend had lined Connor up with a job, delivering Meals on Wheels to some shut-in elderly folks. Right before his forced visit to Nightlight Ministries' camp in Costa Rica, one of his shut ins passes away and leaves Connor a mysterious gift - a playbill with HELP CONNOR written in black ink on its pages.

Connor doesn't know what the message means, but when he is kidnapped and taken to a remote Costa Rican island with other gay boys and girls undergoing the Ministry's "conversion therapy," his journey also turns into a mystery in which he has to figure out what Ricky was trying to tell him in the playbill.

This is a wonderfully written novel and I am in love with Sass's writing and his amazingly detailed characters. I felt like I knew all of them and was rooting for the kids to find their freedom from Nightlight and get to be who they really wanted to be. It's a well-woven plot with intense characters and it also made me angry that people and places like this exist to try to make kids be something they are not.

A wonderful read and a lovely new voice in queer YA.
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So, this book is an action-packed story of revenge set at a conversion camp. Which honestly, sounds heavier than I found this book to be. I am not a stranger to the topic of conversion camps, I have read and enjoyed both Boy Erased and The Miseducation of Cameron Post. Those books hit hard and made me feel uneasy. This one, however, I feel like took the trope of conversion therapy and conversion camps and put an action-like spin to it. For the right reader, I’m sure this is an awesome way of handling heavy topics because it kind of makes them easier to read but for me, sadly, I mostly found the tone and the pace of the book a little bit annoying. I think I personally would rather have read something heavy and more somber I guess? I know that sounds kind of backwards but I think that I as a reader would rather tackle these issues head-on for some reason. I personally have no troubles reading queer pain (despite me being a bi person myself) but I think if you are a reader that don’t handle queer pain too well, maybe the approach this book took would suit you well.

Mostly, I feel like this book tried to make a lot of things entertaining in a way that I personally didn’t appreciate. I don’t know how to put that into words other than that it felt like the book was written in such a way that there always had to be something happening, you know? Like it had to either be someone getting killed, someone killing themselves, someone being physically abused…the list goes on. I feel like sometimes, a little goes a long way and I think I personally would have enjoyed a less…action-heavy book more. Not that there’s anything wrong with this book the way it is right now either, though. Just, your mileage may vary. I think a reason why I felt like there were too many things going on in this book is because, for some reason, this book takes place over the course of one day. It just felt a bit…rushed? I guess, I mean when everything was happening non-stop like that. Spreading out the events over a longer period of time might have helped with that. 

Another slight pet peeve of mine was how I expected to be met with a realistic book and this book really wasn’t that; however, this is definitely on me because nowhere does this book claim to be super realistic or anything. In regards to this, one of the main things that bothered me was Connor getting to know a guy, falling for him and deciding to dump his boyfriend in the matter of one single day. Honestly, no. 

There were some objectively very questionable things thrown in the book as well. The main thing for me being that the leaders/owners of the camp themselves were gay men (which I know is/was the case in a bunch of real-life conversion camps, but still) and I am getting pretty tired of the homophobe-is-secretly-gay trope if we’re being honest. Another thing is a relationship between a camper and a member of staff where, although the camper, at 20, is of age, is still at least 20 years younger than the member of staff, and the member of staff is definitely in a position of power over the camper. Creepy, to say the least.

As for things I actually liked about this book; Connor is pretty much forced to come out of the closet by his boyfriend, Ario, which puts him in a dangerous situation. I liked how this book really went to show just how dangerous this whole everybody-gotta-come-out rhetoric really is. It’s definitely not safe for everybody and I’m so glad this was brought up and implicitly criticized in this book.

Moreover, I actually pretty much liked Connor as a narrator too. He felt very teenage-boy-y kind of annoying, and being annoyed by a teenager that actually read like a teenager felt good. Also, the writing in this book was really, really good. Double thumbs up for that. 

I’m rating this book two stars because it wasn’t objectively awful; it just very clearly wasn’t for me. Which is okay. I know that this book will please plenty a reader so if you feel like this book would be for you, I definitely recommend you pick this up.
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So when I saw this ARC on Netgalley and read the summary I was over the moon. I went to request it and instead I found “Wish for it” complete with a wishbone. With two fingers crossed I wished for it.  When I saw “The Publisher has granted your wish” I was audibly amazed and excited.

So, thank you Flux/North Star Editions, and thank you, NetGalley, for the chance to read this eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Okay, first let’s talk about not only how amazing the title is but the cover. They both flow so well together, the title gives a dark vibe while the cover gives that element of mystery. Kudos to the designer.

I wanted to love this so much more than I did. I’m the first person to root for a queer story, and this one promised the content that would make for a fantastic story. However, it never quite got there.
The beginning seemed very promising.

 After coming out to his mother Connor finds himself in a home where he feels unloved and unseen. He tries to find comfort in his boyfriend but instead feels unworthy of his affections. Then one of his favorite Meals on Wheels clients, Ricky, passes away but leaves behind a cryptic note for Connor to find. Before Connor can find out what the note means he is kidnapped and sent to a conversion camp.

Again this has all the makings of a fantastic story. However, it seemed to fall flat. There were places in the plot that seemed to drag on forever and others that seemed so rushed that it felt like part of the story was missing. Not to mention, I felt like there were so many different topics to address yet the two day timeline that the plot was held within didn’t allow for the proper time for all of them to be addressed. This wasn’t a favorite for me however it did do well addressing many issues that young people in the LGBTQ community deal with. Therefore, I would still recommend it to readers who are interested in reading books with lgbtq characters.
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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.
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I wish being gay was more fun. Everyone else looks like they’re having so much fun, but as soon as I enter Queer Land, it’s all danger camps and punishment and being too tightly wound to enjoy the little sex I was getting."

Surrender Your Sons is easily my favorite YA read of 2020. I didn't know what to expect going in, I saw someone on Instagram raving about it and requested it on a whim and I'm very glad that I did. This book made me feel probably every emotion possible, I went from laughing, to crying, to being so Goddamn triggered, back to laughing and crying again. This is such a roller coaster of a book and Adam Sass really outdid himself.

This story follows Connor Majors, a 17 year old gay kid growing up in a very small, religion driven town. His mother is so incredibly homophobic it's shocking but Connor still knows who he is and what he wants in life. One night a couple of men in masks come to whisk him away on a "vacation" this his mom paid for and this sets the story up for the rest of the book. The vacation spot is an island in Costa Rica that just so happens to be Nightlight Conversion Camp. And the head of the camp turns out to be the Pastor of the town that Connor is from. From here Connor and a bunch of other Queer Kids are stuck on this island and are trying to do their best to stay true to themselves and survive. But the rest of the kids and Connor get together a plan to escape.

I don't want to say much about the storyline because I think it would be much more enjoyable to go in blind with just the idea of a bunch of Queer Kids trying to escape a crazy ass conversion camp. As I mentioned above, this book is very triggering, as someone who grew up in a very religious family, as soon as the bible verses started to drop I wanted to run away super fast. This also tackles a lot of mental health issues, there's obviously a lot of blatant homophobia, and there's a suicide scene that could be triggering for some people.

And even though this seems like a really dark book (I mean it definitely is) there's also a ton of funny ass moments and a cute little romance and a lot of empowering scenes. Even though Surrender Your Sons really tackles what it means to be a Queer Kid growing up in non-accepting families and the mental toll it takes on the youth, it also keeps you hopeful and excited.

"Saying you’re bi is a little too complicated for the Noah’s Ark Gang here at Nightlight.”

When it comes to the characters, I love every single of them. The plot is phenomenal, the writing pulls you in so fast, and the set up of the camp was done so perfectly. Connor is a great Main Character and I'm super glad that he's the one whose head we were in. Honestly though, this could have been told from any of the other kids' PoV and it would have still been a great book. Connor is great though, I love everything about him. Also the little romance that Connor and someone else from the Camp that was thrown in was *very very cute.*

I definitely recommend this to everyone, but if you're someone who is easily triggered when it comes to homophobes uhmm I would definitely say hold off on this. Some scenes in here felt like a punch straight to the gut and yeah it hurts like hell, but it's also very relatable.

I could continue to just say how much I love this and how perfect it was but I'll stop ahaha. ANYWAYS! Go read this book once it releases on September 15th. Thanks <3
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It was the bright yellow colour of the cover that attracted my eye, then the title “Surrender Your Sons” made me curious as to what the book was about. The genres I have seen listed for this book are Teen, YA and LGBTQIA which I agree with but it is also so much more. I am not a Teen reader yet thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I’d say it has lots of elements within it such as mystery, thriller, suspense and it covers some really emotive subjects. The book deals with “coming out” to your family, their reactions as well as your wider community’s reactions too.  

The main character in the book is Connor Major, who lives in Ambrose, Illinois. A place he describes as in the middle of nowhere. Connor lives with his mother, Marcia Major, as his father left them years ago and has had very little to do with Connor since. Marcia Major works at the local hospital caring for preemie babies. 
The Majors nearest neighbour is Reverend Stanley Packard who seems to float around Ambrose with all the women, including Marcia fawning over him and basically hanging on his every word and request. Connor has an Iranian boyfriend, Ario who is older, and much more experienced as well as further on his life. Ario’s mother and family are supportive of him being gay, which is probably why Ario not only encourages, but pressures Connor into officially “coming out”. Unfortunately for Connor, his mother is shocked and annoyed, so much so that her reaction is to confiscate Connor’s phone and not allow him out. Connor briefly dated Vicky, who he now looks upon as his best friend. Vicky is pregnant by an older man whose identity she is determined to keep secret. Unfortunately for Connor this makes people resume he is the father of her baby. The sad thing is his mother Marcia indicates she would be quite happy if this was the case, and tries to pressure her son into “stepping up” and “taking responsibility” for Vicky and her baby. Connor’s mum does attempt to punish her son by not allowing him to see his boyfriend and by signing him up to do meals on wheels for the Reverend. It’s whilst doing this that Connor meets Ricky Hannigan. Ricky has had some sort of accident and is paralysed, the Reverend stresses to Connor he must treat Ricky and his mother like VIP’s and always be on time. Ricky lives in the area that Ario does so naturally Connor takes the opportunity to visit his boyfriend but instantly regrets this when he is spotted coming out of his boyfriend’s home by the Reverend who is keeping a close eye on him. After that Connor is accompanied on his meals on wheels round by the Reverend. When Ricky suddenly dies he leaves a musical programme for Connor with the words “Help Connor” and “Nightlight” on it. It’s not until later that Connor realises Ricky is attempting to send him some sort of important message.
Then one evening he is woken from his sleep, restrained, bundled into a van and taken to an Island to basically “make him straight”. He isn’t the only person on his way to the Island, he meets Molly who has a girlfriend and her family have also paid to have their child “made straight” too. Both Connor & Molly are handled roughly and quite badly that first night but its just the beginning of their journey. Connor begins to realise this is the place called Nightlight that Ricky was trying to warn him about. 
There’s a real mixed bunch of people at the camp, from 20 yr old rich male model, to young teens. Connor soon discovers that he isn’t the only one who has a parent that doesn’t understand him. At some point within the book all the characters attempt to fake being “normal” to pass the tests and classes they are subjected to. There is one particular class led by the awful Ramona where they have to pair up into “normal couples” and go on a date. The jobs the campers/prisoners are given are very gender specific too, such as Molly cleaning, Darcy waitressing. The punishments are archaic and very “boot camp-esque” even staff members can be subjected to them. 

There’s lots of great characters in this book, so its hard to choose just one favourite. I loved Darcy Culpepper, who is described as wearing a retro bob wig. This description had me thinking of Frenchie from Grease and the whole Beauty School Drop Out scenes! It turns out that Darcy is much more, wily and knowledgeable than she is given credit for. Darcy knows things, secrets, about the staff, pupils and what is going on at Nightlight, than you at first think. Another character I liked even though she was only in the book for a few quick scenes was Ario’s younger sister. The one who Connor gave $10 to, as she wanted to donate it to a page of the Aunt of a male model who had disappeared, thought to be being held captive at some weird place that was going to make him straight. Connor empathises with the male model as it appears most of his family have turned against him since he came out just like Connor’s mum has with him. He also likes Ario’s little sister, thinking its great that she wants to help, and is so accepting of both her brother’s and his sexuality. 

Now to characters I loved to hate! Well of course the pious, foreboding Reverend Stanley Packard the man in charge at Nightlight. The same man that strides around Ambrose that everyone bends over backwards to please and impress. Then there’s the crazy Miss Ramona Hayward or Miss Manners as the campers nickname her. Ramona is likely to strike out and hit or scratch you if you don’t say what she considers the right thing. Ramona is also the camp nurse, so that’s a great combination when she injures someone, then has to deal with what injury she has inflicted on them. Though Ramona isn’t the only violent one at Nightlight, Briggs is the one in charge when the Reverend is back in Ambrose. Briggs also lashes out and punches and pushes the campers around to make them do what he wants.

The book is told in different series of timelines/memories. There’s Connor “Before” he came out, Connor “After” he came out but “Before Nightlight”, then the “Present” which is Connor at Nightlight and then right at the end of the book we get a taste of life “After Nightlight”. It’s all from Connor’s point of view and we make discoveries about the other characters and Nightlight as he does. He discovers the Winners Wall which is the walls of the cabin the boys sleep in. The walls are covered in photographs of success stories, those that arrived gay and went home “normal/straight”. Its whilst looking at this wall that Connor discovers a photo of Ricky Hannigan, as well as Briggs, one of the staff members. There’s also a space where a photograph has been ripped away. The Winners Wall holds a lot of clues and secrets that Connor needs to uncover the truths about. As Briggs was on the boys cabin Winners Wall it made me wonder if female staff member, Ramona was on the Winners Wall in the girl’s cabin, but we didn’t get a description of their cabin or anything from their point of view/their voice really.

I found the book quite an addictive read and enjoyed pondering what had happened to Ricky that ended up with the FBI turning up at his home when he died to investigate. For them to be still asking questions about his accident that happened years before. Why was Connor told to treat him like a VIP? I loved the brain teaser type aspect to the book, and at times hated having to put it down. In fact, when I finally finished reading the book it was in the early hours of the morning as I had to know what had happened to Ricky and who was responsible for Ricky’s accident. I totally admit I thought I had solved the mystery a couple of times but wow I was still shocked when the truth was revealed. This book certainly made you think and puzzle over why these people at Nightlight thought how they treated the campers would somehow change their sexuality. The end of the book was really realistic and I am really glad it was. Connor talking to Ario about how different he felt now they had been apart and what he had been through with his new friends he met at Nightlight. I was glad things were kept super realistic with Connor’s mother too. It would have been so easy to have her denying any knowledge of what went on at the Island she had sent her son to. It would have been a typical happy ever after for her to apologise and her to welcome back her son immediately. I found the ending with Connor & Marco reuniting Ricky’s ashes with his own true love fairly emotional. This book certainly transports you to hell and back with Connor on his rollercoaster life. Though this book does deal with serious issues don’t be put off reading it as it also contains some great humorous quotes and scenes too. 

My immediate thoughts upon finishing the book were that I had really enjoyed reading it. The book was really believable and I quickly became attached to the characters. By the end I even felt a little sympathy for staff member Briggs, though I couldn’t bring myself to feel anything positive for the Reverend or Ramona!

To sum up I think maybe some readers will think it a little far fetched and try to deny places and people like Nightlight existing but who knows if they are providing the type of teaching and treatment described within this book, they wouldn’t be openly advertising it would they! I loved the mystery and suspense elements within the book. It did make me think about anyone “coming out” in the present day and I reckon its still a big step for anyone. When will society just be accepting of everyone no matter who they are or what their sexuality is.
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While I found the overall premise of this book good and the writing style was fine, the overall pacing of this was absurd. The idea that they can accomplish all of that in 24 hours, that teenagers would immediately trust an outsider like that, it was just never ending info dump and should have absolutely been spread out over even 3 days, but up to a week. The conclusion was weak and I do not understand how everyone is going on about the brilliance of this, don't even get me started on the infidelity. Connors boyfriend does nothing wrong, has not faults aside from naïvety and Connor just cheats on him in some bizarre cave scene that felt more like Days of Our Lives. Honestly just no. 3 stars maximum because I like Adam and the writing isn't awful, the development just needs a load of help.
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Thanks to NetGalley for providing me an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

What a ride!

In this book we follow Connor who is pressured by his boyfriend to come out. When he eventually does to his mom, things take a dark turn developing in him getting sent to a conversion camp where they "fix" queer people. Before this happens he receives a cryptic message from his friend, an old guy who just passed away. Once he gets to the island where the camp is set, the meaning of this mysterious message will be unveiled. 

This book kept me on the edge of my seat THE WHOLE TIME! It lives up to its promise of a thriller. 

I loved:
- The characters' depth, how decisions make us dance in a good vs. bad scale, eventually defining your truest nature between good and evil.
- I loved the pace, but I think it could have been splayed out through a couple of more days, and not just the 2 we get. It would have been more believable.
- I loved the humor and the friendships! 

Things that could have been better:
- In the end there is an inevitable conflict with someone that ended up being a bit underwhelming. Don't get me wrong, the ending does have its punch, but this specific part felt too easy somehow.
- The overuse of "pins and needles". Any and every time our character felt anxious, nervous, afraid (which, understandably, was a lot during this story) he used the description of feeling pins and needles in some part of his body and I think some of those times the phrasing could have changed to other synonyms.

CW: Queer pain, self-harm, suicide.
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