Cover Image: Surrender Your Sons

Surrender Your Sons

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

I really liked this book, which feel strange to say considering the subject matter. But Sass did himself a great service by infusing the narrative with just enough campiness (The Wizard of Oz, showtunes) and humor to offset the darkness that sometimes threatened to overwhelm the story.

Also... HUGE BRAVO for the scenes of queer intimacy! I've never seen gay sex depicted on-page in a mainstream YA novel before (I even wrote a paper about it in grad school), and Sass does it with sensitivity, bluntness and realism.
Was this review helpful?
SURRENDER YOUR SONS is an emotionally difficult read that manages to combine horrifying themes of violence, homophobia, parental neglect/abuse, and emotional torture with a fair amount of hope, and a few doses of humor. Sass puts a content warning with a full explanation of what he's trying to do in this narrative right at the beginning, and while I usually think that stories should speak for themselves so the reader can draw their own conclusions, for a YA book like this I think it was probably a good idea. I really did like this book, no matter how much it upset me, and I think that Connor Major is a really fun, complex, and inspirational main character to follow at this conversion camp of one's worst nightmares (though in many ways, probably not too far from the truth). I think that I would ultimately classify this as a combination of a mystery-coming of age-horror story, and while some aspects were maybe a little over the top (though again, maybe not), I also thought that the root messages were spot on. I specifically liked how Sass really demonstrated how abused and mistreated people sometimes can turn into abusers and monsters, and while that doesn't excuse what they do to other people, it does show why this kind of treatment is so, so damaging and far reaching. The mystery at hand was well done, and I thought that Sass did a very good job of laying it all out through present moment and flashbacks. But ultimately the story here is about rising up against oppressors and being true to yourself and doing what is right for you. Even if it can have fallout.

SURRENDER YOUR SONS is a rough one. Heed the content warnings. But I think that ultimately it has a lot of valuable lessons to tell, as well as a pulse pounding mystery.
Was this review helpful?
WOW. What. A. Ride.

I was engaged the entire time and I was really feeling for our main character and the other campers. This had a lot of cool twists and turns, some more obvious than others, and this never got boring. I usually don't read a lot of thrillers (I don't even know why, since the few that I have read, I've really enjoyed), so I can't really comment on if this has a lot of tropes, but for me, it was very well crafted.

I really liked that this wasn't just SOME boy, getting send to A conversion therapy camp, but our main character Connor played a very important role in the history and mystery surrounding this camp. While I really liked the constant action, I didn't really like that the narrated time in this was SO short. The main story of this book pretty much happens in the span of one single day. That together with the fact that the way things work in this camp were kind of flimsy and vague made the entire camp a little hard to grasp. I was ready to be horrified and disgusted by the things they put these teens through, but ultimately, we didn't see much of that. For being one of the most secretive conversion therapy camps, their methods seemed a bit vague and uneffective. I would have just liked to get a bit more information about this. For this being a conversion camp for queer people, there was decidedly little talk about what being queer even means and why the staff is so against it and how they're trying to change it. Even if their reasons are wrong and deranged, I still wanted to see it.

The twists and turns of the story (which I won't spoil of course!) might be up to personal tastes in some cases, but I personally really enjoyed them!

Now onto the romance! While I really enjoyed the romance in this book, I didn't really like that Connor had a boyfriend at the beginning of the book. It does make sense for the story to work, because Connor needed a reason to come out to his mother, that way this relationship was handled later on in the book didn't really sit right with me. It didn't keep me from enjoying the new romance, but it's definitely something to be aware of. There was also a couple of side relationships in this (I think two that are explicitly present in the story), and I was sooo into one of them, even though it's highly problematic. I just thought it fit the story pretty well and made my heart ache.

Even if I might have criticised a few things that could have been better, I still thouroughly enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend you pick this up if you're up for a wild ride!
Was this review helpful?
Whoo boy, this one is so difficult to review.
On the one hand, I completely understand where the author was coming from in writing this - they say in their foreword that they want to highlight and explore queer pain and that is definitely something the book does. It highlights queer pain, showing the emotional repercussions that discrimination, hatred, and conversion therapy can have on young individuals.
But I think that there is a fine line between showing queer pain and exploiting it to 'spice up' the plot and sadly, this book fell into the latter category for me.
Which, by no means, is to say that this is not a good book. Surrender Your Sons is fantastically written, the prose flows and though I had some major issues with the pacing and think it would have been more beneficial to have the events further spread out than a mere twenty-four hours at the conversion therapy camp,  I still feel like this will apply to many a reader and has potential to be adapted into a movie with its creepy and anxiety-inducing vibes and it's Hunger Games-esque caricatures of characters.
But I just have to say that there were a lot of harmful messages in the novel beyond the queer pain depictions. Every single villain in this book is a homophobe and and a closeted gay individual. Maybe that was intentional to show how being in the closet can change you but I felt that it wasn't the best message to tell children that all the bad guys are secretly gay and those who are openly so are prosecuted. I just don't know. That rubbed me the wrong way the entire time.
All in all, I think this book has good intentions, great writing but maybe should have been given a few more senstivity readers before going further in the publication process. Especially for younger readers in the LGBTQ+ community, this isn't a read I could recommend.
Was this review helpful?

i had to sit on the rating of this one for a while, and the longer i waited the more it seemed to go up, i just couldnt stop thinking about it. this is one of those rare books that haunts you days, weeks, YEARS after you finish it. 

for so many characters in one book, i find that most times only a few, if any, are well developed. but this was not the case here. they were all very easy to tell apart and i didnt find myself forgetting about any of them.

the plot twists just KEPT COMING and that ending..... omg. please tell me there is a sequel because i NEED IT like yesterday

my only complaint is that it was pretty slow in the beginning, but the action packed into the end definitely made up for it. 

connor was not my FAVORITE character, but i admire his strength in the face of his circumstances. i liked marcos a lot though!

also dont listen to sad music for the last 30 pages or so or you will bawl your eyes out like a little baby. 
...not that i would know anything about that at all. nope.

but overall GOD what a gorgeous, terrifying, heartbreaking, haunting book. this one is important and i hope it will receive the attention it so deserves.
Was this review helpful?
**I was provided an electronic ARC from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for honest review.**

Adam Sass hits hard with this LGBTQ contemporary about a gay teen, Connor Major, who is sent to an island conversion camp after coming out to his mother. As if a conversion camp wasn't bad enough, Connor only just arrives at Nightlight when red flags begin going up in all directions. Something is up with the staff, secrets are around every corner, and all of it is surrounding a common name: Ricky. Ricky, who Connor knows died before he ever came to Nightlight. 

Major trigger warnings in all manner of directions for this book. Warnings include but may not be limited to the following: suicide, depression, conversion camps, homophobia, child abuse, age gap romance with an authority figure, toxic families, sexism, and murder.

This type of book is not typically my thing. I don't tend toward contemporaries, let alone hard-hitting YA contemporaries. That being said, I did enjoy this novel. Adam Sass has a skill at maintaining a sense of hope and resistance despite all of the completely awful things taking place. Sass allows his characters to be vulnerable while also showcasing the strength and resilience they are capable of. This book could have been a much different story under a different author, but Sass makes Connor's story triumphant even when Connor is at rock bottom. 

I think that the story is gripping and will be a one-sitting read for many people as it was for me. I very much look forward to Sass' future works.
Was this review helpful?
Thank you NetGalley and Flux for the digital ARC of this book! 

I'm just. So glad I finally get to scream about this book!

Connor Major has a lot to deal with. A religiously fanatic mother, a best friend who's pregnant and everyone thinks he's the father, and a boyfriend, who while deliciously handsome, also pressures Connor to come out to his mother, despite this being the worst idea in the history of really terrible ideas.

Cue conversion camp! Connor is sent to camp Nightlight, and what ensues over the one weekend he's there is more than one murder mystery, abuse from religious nutjobs in an attempt to 'pray away the gay', and total destruction of one kind or another. 

Hey, so, Simon Spier? Yes, we love you but kindly move. As a society, we've moved past the need for sweet cinnamon roll gay boys who are written for white women. What we have now are angry, self-conscious, horny gay boys who are just trying their best, okay? Connor is sweet, don't get me wrong. He loves his mother. He loves his boyfriend. He just wants everything and everyone to be okay. But when it's not? He's going to let. you. know. He said what he said. Also, the internalized homophobia in this book is written so well. We see Connor have physical reactions when he's in bed with a boy. We see his anxiety manifest, and while I'm sure there are some people who'd rather not see it, I think it's an incredibly important and relevant experience that so many of us in the LGBTQ community go through.

This book is pretty fast-paced, which makes sense considering so much happens over the span of a weekend. I didn't even realize it had only been a few days until the end. I think it works in this context, though, because it keeps the momentum of the story without dragging in the middle like some books are prone to do. The thriller aspect will keep you guessing. I had about 100 theories throughout this entire book and none of them were right. 

It's a tough read in some spots. While Connor is such a joy to read, the things he's dealing with are not. Homophobia, assault, an uncomfortable age gap relationship, pressure to be out before he's ready, internalized homophobia, and oh yeah. Literal murder. Adam Sass juggles all of these in one hand and still manages to weave together a cohesive story that'll keep readers excited and guessing. 

The supporting characters are all so well done. The cast is fantastically diverse as far as both race and sexuality go. Some of the kids are very young, and I think the fact that the older kids are so protective over them is two-fold: 1. Because obviously they don't want the kids to get hurt but 2. I think this says a lot about the LGBTQ community, and how we tend to stick together in a world where some would like us to not exist at all. It's nice to see, despite the surrounding. 

The romance aspect is not distracting to the story and while yes, it is a bit of instalove, I absolutely do not fault this book for that. When you're in a situation where you could literally die at any moment when you're just trying to exist, and you happen to find someone in the same situation who is also adorable and achingly sweet? What's a boy to do, honestly?

I will riot if there's not a book two. I NEED it and I hope we're able to get it! 

Please read this book. It's fantastic and important and kind of scary which is always a plus!
Was this review helpful?
This story follows Connor Major, a gay teen who, at the incessant urging of his boyfriend Ario, has just come out to his mother.  She did not take it well at all, especially since she's become quite a religious zealot after getting involved with a fundamentalist Christian church lead by a super-creepy pastor.  Connor hopes his mom comes around and ends up accepting him, but instead, she has him kidnapped in the middle of the night and sent to a religious conversion camp on a secluded island off of Costa Rica. 

And thus Connor's nightmare begins.  

This ended up being quite a disturbing thriller — a dark, raw, intense, and heartbreaking story that explored themes of suicide, homophobia, parental abuse, physical abuse, mental abuse, murder, conversion therapy, and religious zealotry.  The author did an excellent job of capturing the camp's horror and the terror of the campers into the written word. We witness firsthand the brutality of the "camp counselors" and the monstrous things they did to their young prisoners.  So, in addition to being poignant, the story is atmospheric and evocative.  

The author also gives us some fantastic side characters. I thought the queer kids in this story were utterly brave and commendable, considering the unimaginably terrifying situation in which they found themselves. No matter what monstrous events they faced, the theme of hope ran throughout the narrative. So though it was quite dark and creepy in places, there was always a light of hope in that darkness.

I loved the camaraderie and solidarity that developed between them as they faced imaginable odds and ended up turning the tables on their captors.  In this way, this dark and disturbing survivalist story ends up being a hopeful tale of bravery and resilience.

Though it was an uncomfortable, intense, and violent book that delved into some pretty gritty places, it was also fast-paced, thrilling, twisty, and adventuresome.  In fact, the entire story took place over a period of two days, which really lent a sense of urgency to it.  The book also ended up being a compelling mystery as Connor, and a few other campers begin investigating the mysterious death of a former camper, leading them to uncover the camp's deepest and darkest secrets. I found the story compelling, gripping, and unputdownable as the secrets were revealed to us one by one.

Surrender Your Sons had a satisfying conclusion with everything neatly tied up at the end and is well worth the read.  I ended up loving this book and look forward to reading more by this author. 

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with a review copy of this book.
Was this review helpful?
This book hit me really hard. I have no clue what it's like to have been to a conversion camp, nor will I ever (hopefully), but the author did a great job of making the reader feel the frustration and pain of the main character while at this camp. I think this book is a crucial part of understanding queer history and current events and it's unfortunately incredibly relevant. The only thing I wasn't sold on was the ending, which is more of a personal opinion and not at any fault of the author.
Was this review helpful?
After coming out to his religious zealot of a mother, Connor Major is kidnapped and sent to Nightlight Ministries, an island conversion camp near Costa Rica. Cut off from the outside world, his boyfriend, and any sense of safety, Connor must navigate this “Pray the Gay Away” fever dream he just can’t seem to wake up from. When he teams up with the other queer campers, Connor might have an actual chance at escaping, and maybe even getting rid of this place once and for all. 

As you probably guessed from its description, SURRENDER YOUR SONS is a grim story to digest—but, unfortunately, one that is all too real for many queer teens. The novel refuses to shy away from not just the mere existence of conversion therapy camps, but the horrific emotional and physical trauma inflicted by this detrimental practice—which is still yet to be banned statewide in 29 states in the U.S. Debut author Adam Sass explores the depths of queer suffering with scalpel-sharp precision and nuance as he peels back the proverbial curtain on Nightlight Ministries—no matter how painful a task this proves to be. At one point a Nightlight employee tells Connor that “this isn’t Love, Simon”; and there is no question that SURRENDER YOUR SONS is cut from a far different cloth than this (relatively) fluffy queer rom-com. Happily ever afters and cute falling-in-love montages are replaced by creepy camp directors and a remote island hellhole.

But as much as SURRENDER YOUR SONS is a tale of queer pain, it’s also a story about queer resistance, evoking a Hunger Games-level of adrenaline-inducing action and hard-fought rebellion against an oppressive regime. Ultimately, the survival of these queer teens rests in their communal uprising and mutual support— and nothing is more inspiring in an otherwise nightmarish scenario. All in all, SURRENDER YOUR SONS is a gripping and inventive addition to the young adult thriller genre. 

Trigger Warnings: conversion therapy camp; kidnapping; internalized queerphobia/extreme religious queerphobia; suicide; queerphobic emotional and physical abuse/violence; queerphobic slurs; anxiety attacks; murder; sexual content; swearing

(Pine Reads Review would like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for providing us with an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Any quotes are taken from an advanced copy and may be subject to change upon final publication.)
Was this review helpful?
Wow! This book totally had me on the edge of my seat. SYS is a heavy book, and I enjoyed it though the abusive aspects really tore me apart emotionally--be advised to check out the CWs if you need re: suicide, panic attacks, mental/physical punishment, etc. I honestly can't believe that conversion camps still exist in this world. They're despicable and should be outlawed. I really hope books like SYS will help bring an end to such practices.
Was this review helpful?
I went back and forth on how to rate this book and I hate that we rate books at all. But here we are. 

Going into SURRENDER YOUR SONS, I was actually expecting something along the line of Lord of the Flies or Wilder Girls but with queer people. Although it did tap into some violent situations, it did not give me the same horror vibe. But that's on me. My expectations could transform into a thousand balloons and carry my house away via UP style. 


When Conner's first-ever boyfriend forces him to "come out" to his super religious mother, he finds himself being basically kidnapped and sent to Costa Rica to what appears to be a gay conversion camp called Nightlight. The events leading up to his scary situation include a shady Reverand and a Meals on Wheels job which includes delivering to a handicapped man named Ricky who leaves a cryptic note on a playbill upon his death. 

Connor soon finds out Ricky's note contains the name of the "summer camp" Connor is dragged to. Soon, he hooks up with Marco, Molly, Drew, and a few other queer kids in the same situation and digs further into the mystery that is Nightlight and what really happened to Ricky. 

The one (or two) complaint I had was that I wasn't completely sold on why Connor cared so much about Ricky. But I think part of me knew that he was just a way to take down the camp indirectly and directly. Also, things move very quickly in the book. I was surprised when only 24 hours have passed at one point. It felt like at least a few days. 

The B characters felt a little flat as if they could be each other and I'd never know the difference. But they serve well in giving Connor a sense of community after feeling so lost and alone after the rejection of his own mother. 

All in all, I think this was a good book that will resonate with lots of people. Its raw honesty will make this a memorable debut. 

Thank you Netgalley and the publisher for the review copy.
Was this review helpful?
Surrender your sons is one of most anticipated reads and I was so Happy to have the chance to read it. Adam Sass wrote a story able to make you angry, upset, hopeful, in love and ready to Scream at the same time. The characters are Absolutely relatable, complex and impossible not to love. Even the "villains" are almost relatable with their pasts and traumas. This book is a gem
Was this review helpful?
I read this book a few months back as an eARC and I think about it to this point. This book is absolutely amazing and I loved it.
It like breaks you really and you start to think about life, love, friendship, religion, the society and so much more. I would have liked if the author would have focussed on the religion part a bit more, but that's just a small thing I would have found really interesting to know more about.
I loved reading it even though it was really hard to do sometimes. I felt with the characters, eventhough I can never fully understand what they must have been going through. 
But don't get me wrong it wasn't a really sad book all the time (although it really is sometimes), but also funny and just urgh just read it. I would absolutely recommend it!

Was this review helpful?
“I wish being gay was more fun.”

**Content warning for homophobic violence, including conversion “therapy,” child abuse, suicide, and murder. **

Boyishly proud of his discovery, Marcos beams, but where his heart has lifted, mine weighs heavier.

It’s another Winner’s Wall. 

Instead of pictures, our sanctum’s black wall is covered with chalk-drawn hearts, and at the foot of the wall lies a pile of powdery-white limestones . “Have you ever seen this before?” I ask, approaching with the same awe and trepidation as when Marcos brought me to the Winner’s Wall. He doesn’t respond. His smile fallen, he presses his hand to one of the chalk hearts. Inside it are four letters: MK + CR. “Initials?” 

Each batch of initials is different: TB + KW, KS + DA, MR + ASZ On and on, they fill dozens of hearts, climbing the cave into darkened corners that even our tiki lamp can’t reach. […]

Nightlight tried to snuff it out, but love grew. Love found its way to the island, and this sanctuary made it possible. Whoever first transcribed their initials into a heart started a chain reaction that led to an entirely different Winner’s Wall. In the cabin, the Winner’s Wall of “successful” Nightlight graduates is a depressing monument to control and domination. But this wall is an anthem of wild, unchained resistance.


They’re soaking wet in their swim trunks, pure joy in their eyes, unmarred by time, unaware of the savage future waiting for them. They were friends. The cruelty singes my lungs black. My eyes burn with tears. They’re dead. They don’t need to be, this didn’t need to happen. I wrestle with the unfair weight and constraints of time—I’m furious at my body for not being able to instantly travel back in time, right now, and rescue those boys on the dock.


YA novels centered around conversion therapy camps are an insta-read for me, if only because I’m appalled (though not entirely shocked) that such places still exist. Euphemistically referred to as “reparative therapy,” conversion “therapy” purports to “cure” its LGBTQ “patients” of their sexual “deviancy” (read: queerness) using a variety of methods that range from emotional and psychological to outright physical abuse. On the “milder” end, you have psychological “counseling” (read: bullying), religious indoctrination, visualization, and gender role performance; among the more extreme abuse that’s been documented is chemical castration, aversive treatments (e.g., the pairing of electric shocks or drug-induced nausea with same-sex pornography), and even ice pick lobotomies. Though it’s been rejected by nearly every reputable medical and psychological organization as pseudoscience and child abuse, currently only twenty US states ban conversion therapy on minors. 

Conversion therapy is a horror story that all but writes itself – and yet Adam Sass delivers a cleverly unique take on the story with his debut novel, SURRENDER YOUR SONS. Part THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST (hey, it’s the gold standard! THE SUMMER I WASN'T ME works too.), part murder mystery (Agatha Christie? idk, I don’t read a ton from this group. The nonfiction UNFINISHED LIVES or INDECENT ADVANCES might be better points of comparison.), with just a touch of Billy Porter’s flair sprinkled throughout (the author’s name is kind of perfect, because his MC can be sassy AF, providing much-needed moments of levity), SURRENDER YOUR SONS is equal parts frightening and funny. 

It’s the summer before senior year, and Connor Major’s life is not going according to plan. He recently came out to his parental unit Marcia, a single mom and the most evangelical of the zealots residing in his adopted home town of Ambrose, Illinois. She was okay-ish, if a bit icy, at first – but when she found out that Connor also had a boyfriend, a real-life, flesh and blood partner with whom to have sexyfuntimes, Marcia straight up lost her ship: she confiscated Connor’s phone, followed by his laptop and Wifi. He’s effectively grounded for the duration of the summer, except for his Meals on Wheels deliveries, helpfully coordinated by the Majors’ only neighbor (and Marcia’s doomed crush), Reverend Packard. He’s resorted to stealing minutes with Ario, who’s headed off for college in the fall, between deliveries. Even that plan goes kaput when Connor’s remaining client, Ricky Hannigan, dies suddenly of an infected bedsore. 

And then Marcia arranges Connor’s kidnapping, and things really go sideways … but not before Ricky leaves Connor an old playbill etched with a cryptic warning in his will. WTF is going on here!?!

First by van, then by plane and boat, Connor is disappeared to small island off the coast of Costa Rica, to a rugged camp operated by Nightlight Ministries – and ruled over by none other than Reverend Packard. He forms a quick bond with his fellow campers Molly, Marcos, Darcy, Lacrishia, Vance, and Jack, one that’s only cemented when it becomes clear that their missions dovetail in some surprising ways. Connor wants – no, needs – to find out what happened to Ricky Hannigan all those years ago, while the long-term residents aim to escape the island – but not before gathering enough evidence to shut it down for good. With the clock ticking and a murderer on the loose, can they emerge from Nightlight unscathed? 

From start to finish, SURRENDER YOUR SONS is pretty spectacular: Sass has the creepy, ominous vibe down pat, and the murder mystery part of the story will keep you guessing until the end. The Nighlight captives represent a scrappy, resourceful group of kids from a variety of backgrounds, and you can’t help but root for them – and hard. (I’ll admit, I was hoping for more stabby stabby revenge, but the logic presented against it is – sadly – sound.) I wasn’t totally on board with the Pastor’s motivation – which is why I gave this one five stars, and not five stars plus a “favorite” – but otherwise the story line is as believable as it is compelling. 

I think what I love most, though, is the ending: naturally everyone wants a happy ending, but the happiness never sits well when it feels forced or unrealistic. At first, it looks like the characters in SURRENDER YOUR SONS are barrelling towards this fate, but Sass throws us for a loop in the final chapters. This story doesn’t have a happily ever after – but it’s brimming with hope nonetheless. Connor’s victory is bittersweet, but it’s all the more plausible for its ambiguity. 

Also worth mentioning is Sass’s wry, audacious sense of humor. Connor’s one-liners, sometimes bandied at the most inappropriate times, are tiny masterpieces of their own.
Was this review helpful?
While this wasn't a book that filled me with joy, as it shouldn't, Adam Sass' Surrender Your Boys feels necessary and vital to the collection of Queer books that open the conversation of why we need a community. Pain and perseverance are so realted to the LGBTQ+, and this book captures that so clearly and beautifully. This is not going to be a fun summer read kind of book but I do see it striking a nerve with people. This is one of the stronger Debut's that I've read and I can't wait to see what else Mr. Sass has next.
Was this review helpful?
I should preface this by saying that the author provided a note right at the beginning of the novel that said this was going to be a thriller.  So prior to reading, I had been thoroughly warned . . .that said, this did not work as a thriller.  I am so disappointed to say that, but I really think this was a missed opportunity to create an important work of contemporary fiction about how conversion therapy is a real thing that continues to exist and just how damaging, dangerous and inhumane it is.  Instead, this novel felt like a caricature.  The characters, the plotting, the everything was so completely over the top that it took away from the truly important and valuable thematic elements the author was trying to convey.  This stings extra hard because there is a lot of potential and I would love to read this story again but without any of the plot points that turned it into an unbelievable "thriller."

At the same time - this could, possibly, still attract the attention of teens and open their eyes and minds to the horrors of conversion therapy, which could, potentially, open up an important conversation and discussion.  For that, and that reason alone, it could be a worthwhile purchase for YA collections.
Was this review helpful?
I got about 15% into another book and could tell it was too slow to break me out of my reading slump. @netgalley had just approved me for SURRENDER YOUR SONS, and the premise was intense: after being kidnapped, gay teenager Connor Major is taken to an isolated conversion therapy camp where he uncovers decades of secrets. ⁣
I kept trying to love this book, but a combination of pacing issues and too many characters made it not a fit for me. It’s likely I might be extra critical since I desperately wanted a slump breaker...I am sure this book will find a ready audience when it comes out this fall. ⁣
Thank you to Flux and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for this review. ⁣
Was this review helpful?
Surrender Your Sons is a mystery-thriller novel set in a jungle conversion camp. Yes, you read that right. I can't help but think of other conversion therapy books I've read, notably Boy Erased and Miseducation of Cameron Post. But while there are elements of that here, it is neither of those books. While both those take on the realistic horrors of conversion therapy, Sass adds a sense of mystery and the fantastical. Not only is there religious bigotry, but murder, a secluded island, and hints of a shady international organization. A little bit of everything. I enjoyed this novel immensely save for one detail: the pacing. All the major action happens over the course of a day. All the plotting, exposition, murder, mayhem, teen hormones, etc. are cramped very tightly into the plot. And it is hard to remember that because there is so much going on. If I wasn't constantly reminded, I would have thought Connor had been on the island for weeks instead of just one day. I think it having more time to breathe would have been helpful.
Was this review helpful?
This was AMAZING!

When Connor Major's beautiful out and proud boyfriend convinces him to come out to his mother, all hell breaks loose. But, this hell is a slow leak. After many attempts to make him admit he isn't gay, she turns to the Reverend in town, a man she has been mooning over since she and her son arrived in the Illinois town from Florida years ago. Connor realizes he needs to get out of this house. There is nothing keeping him here. He isn't doing great in school and his favorite meals on wheels client, Ricky has just passed away. He is never going to get his religious zealot mother to accept this part of him. Before he can escape though, he is taken in the night by men who, at his mother's behest, take him to this Costa Rican "resort" run by the Reverend Packard.

Ricky leaves a cryptic message for Connor in his will and Connor doesn't put it together until he realizes that this is no resort but a conversion therapy camp. Ricky had tried to warn him about it but it is too late. Little does Connor know, this camp is not only evil, but shrouded in lies and secrets. As he uncovers more of the truth, he connects the dots between the people who run the camp and the terrible events that they are hiding from the past. Connor swears to his dead friend Ricky, that he will get to the bottom of what really happened to Ricky. He will get the campers out of this awful place and away from these terrifying people holding them there.

Along the way, we meet his fellow campers, most of whom aide Connor in his endeavor to get away from these monsters. This cast of characters were all so wonderful. You feel so strongly for each of them, who have all gone through so much hardship just for being born the way they are. Parts of this book totally broke my heart, but Connor and his perseverance glued it all back together. He was a sassy, adorable character that will stay with me for a long time.
Was this review helpful?