Cover Image: Surrender Your Sons

Surrender Your Sons

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Member Reviews

I came to this book with high expectations and they were MET. A gay thriller about conversion therapy camps? SIGN ME UP.

There are so many great things to say about this book. The subject is great. The pacing is great. The characterization is great. The author does an amazing job of telling all parts of this story. The way he explains the inner turmoil of our main character, Connor Major, is perfect. While it would be so satisfying to read a book where the bad guys are completely ruined, Kill Bill style, real emotions and reactions are so much more complicated than that, and Adam Sass delivers.

This book could be triggering to some readers, especially if you have experienced ostracism because of your identity. The author provides a content warning at the beginning regarding suicide, so be warned if this is something that could harmful to you as a reader. But even though many parts of this are agonizing to read about, it is such a good book. Please read it.
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It's a bitter pill to swallow. The conversion therapy setting and violent homophobia are disturbing, upsetting, and difficult to get through, but the message in itself is priceless. And the promise of karmic retribution is oh so sweet. 

On the flipside, some of the dialogue felt unnatural and forced,  the romance was instalovey, and the timeframe that this whole book goes through is two-days, which seemed unrealistic. 

It was still a powerful, eye-opening reminder that hatred on this absurd, unforgivable level still exists even in an era as progressive as today's. 

Overall, a painful but necessary read for 2020.

Thank you to netgalley for providing a digital copy in exchange for an unbiased review.
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Adam’s exceptional writing showcases a story about what it’s like to be okay with the real you, even if that person is someone the rest of the world sees as flawed. A mystery at its core, this story takes a hard look at what it’s like to exist as a gay person in this judgmental world and leaves the reader with hope for a better future for our kids.
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I was not ready for the reckoning Adam Sass created. Most of this book spans two days and yet every single sentence has perfect pacing. My love for the main protagonist, his poignant wit and frantic grasps for love, his realistic wrestling with internalized homophobia- you can tell a queer author wrote this glorious book and that brings so much more power and reality to it.  Every named character is fleshed out and darling in their own ways, they contribute to the solving of the unraveling mystery instead of taking up page space. It opens with a gentle heads up on the heavy themes. Every part of this novel was crafted with reverence and only makes me love the story more. And spoiler alert, we get a happily ever after, but not in an unrealistic way. I am not a re-reader, but I want to lose myself in this book again, soon.
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Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing a copy for review. 

Oh man this book is SO SO SO GOOD. I normally don't read contemporaries, but the title caught my attention and I am so glad I picked this up. This book follows Connor as he tries to navigate the disaster that has been his coming out. His mother is not supportive to say the least, his boyfriend, who has a very supportive family, keeps denying the problems Connor is having. Connor also happens to live in a small, conservative, crazy religious town.  The Reverend is very fire and brimstone. In an extreme, last ditch attempt to have a "normal" son, Connor's mom has him taken away to a conversion camp. This is where things start to really pick up and get insane. I can't say much more about it without accidentally spoiling. 

The cast of characters we meet there is great however. A disturbing wide variety of ages, some quite young. The campers are split up into boys and girls, and forced to role play traditional gender roles. There is Drew, the famous model, Marcos, a cinnamon roll of anxiety, Owen and Alan, the younger campers. Darcy, who is subtly planning the camps downfall, Molly, who is outright plotting demise, and a couple younger girls. The leaders of the camp are honestly kinda interesting. Some are outright evil, totally believe in what they're doing, but there are others there that are being forced to be there. This book really does an excellent job in detailing the emotional abuse all these people have or are going through. The self-acceptance, and also the self-loathing some have. This is honestly a very intense book. It deals with a whole slew of kinds of abuse, and suicide. The author does have a letter in the beginning about it. The overall message though is one of hope, and found family and love. I couldn't put this book down, it is so good and I highly recommend it!
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This book was a wild ride from beginning to end. I read it in twenty-four hours, unable to put it down, and my heart pounded the whole time. It's not easy to confront a complex and difficult subject in the format of a thriller, while still developing beautiful characters and delivering on-point pacing, but Adam Sass does it skillfully here.

Connor Major, kidnapped and taken to a conversion camp after coming out to his devout mother, is the YA hero we need. There are two journeys going on simultaneously: Connor's emotional journey towards his own self-acceptance and self-love, and his physical and psychological journey battling to get off the island. When he arrives at the camp, Connor bonds with other campers and despite his own fear and struggles, takes the lead on figuring out how to get them all out safely. 

Connor's not a perfect character, and that's what makes him so important and lovely to read. His strengths and flaws are so relatable, and watching him come to accept and love his sexual identity throughout the course of the novel was a gift. YA readers - especially LGBTQIA+ teens who are in oppressive or unsafe households - will see themselves in him and be inspired by his growth and bravery. Connor takes the horrible things that have happened to him and becomes a kick-ass hero to be reckoned with. 

The story addresses head-on how this type of hate can tear apart families, and should not only be read by a YA audience, but by parents alike. Although I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review, I loved this book enough and value its importance that I will be placing a hard copy in my classroom library. It was both voraciously readable and tremendously important, and I'm grateful for the chance to read it.
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ARC provided by the publisher from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

"The fog feels like amnesia, or a dream—a secret I'm trying to tell myself. My brain knows what it is, but it can only tell me in riddles? What is this secret?"

"It's not about about queer pain. It's about what queers do with pain.

5 stars. Y’all, Surrender Your Sons is a masterpiece and I can’t wait for everyone to be able to read it. I just want to reiterate: it is such a privilege that I was able to read this early. This ownvoices, gay thriller about queer people triumphing over hatred and pain being inflicted upon them deserves all the hype it that early reviews have been giving it. It was honestly a very interesting experience for me to read this right after rereading Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda and seeing the way the two contrast one another. But beyond that, this book itself excels in several areas: prose and characterization are two of the most praise-worthy facets of this novel. However, I think what this novel excels at best is the way it authentically captures what it's like to be a gay teen.

But first let's talk about prose. The fact that Adam Sass is a debut novel astounds me: his prose reads like that of a seasoned author. His writing occupies that sweet spot I absolutely love between stark, sharp writing and it's more flowery, purple counterpart. Sass' writing is razor sharp, unflinching, but is a perfect medium to express Connor's thoughts with a type of poetic clarity that is done in a way that does not bog down the story and instead accentuates it. Whether it'd be expressing the horror clawing up Connor's throat at some of the things he is forced to endure at the conversion camp, expressing his love for certain other characters, or feeling a complicated mix of both, Sass is able to express Connor's thoughts and emotions with remarkable clearness. I can't wait to get a finished copy of this book, reread it, and highlight some of my favorite quotes.

Sass also evidently able to use use his skill as a writer to deftly flesh-out the characters within his novel. Connor's voice reads as both well-fleshed out and realistic. As this novel is written in first person, Connor's voice as a character must be well-drawn enough so the reader can get attached to him even before he must brave the horrors of the conversion camp. Sass succeeds in this well-within the first few pages, showing that he is a queer teen just trying to find his own happiness in awful circumstances: he lives with a religious zealot of a mother, has an absent father, is feeling the brunt of the consequences of coming out, and is living in abject poverty. While Connor arrives to the island in a state of shock and horror, his gradual development into a leader in helping the other queer kids on the island escape is so satisfying to watch.

Sass' success with characterization isn't just limited to his main protagonist. Molly, Marcos, as well as the rest of the supporting cast are all very well drawn-out with their own motivations and plans. The supporting cast, alongside Connor, are also used to show the power of community and found family amongst queer kids. All of the kids that Connor meets at the camp have been rejected and failed by people who were supposed to love them unconditionally; the way queer kids form communities out of necessity is showcased in this book.

Speaking of that, this is one of the most honest and accurate portrayals of a gay Gen Z teen I've seen. This is especially apparent to me post-rereading Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda: while the book is a very good depiction of what being a gay teen is like and I will love that book to my dying day, I'd argue that Surrender Your Sons offers a more raw portrayal of that gay teen experience. Everything from Connor's music choices to the vocabulary used by characters in this book to the way his narration shows that yes, Connor is a hormonal teenage boy. For that last one in particular, it's so refreshing: as Sass is an ownvoices author, he is able to accurately depict Connor's sexuality and desire without it coming across as fetishistic or gross. It was so refreshing to see.

Conclusively: please pick this up when it comes out this fall. But also keep in mind that this should only be read when the reader is in the right head-space to read it: big trigger warnings though for suicide, sexual scenes, graphic violence, mention of hate crimes, both physical and mental abuse, homophobia, and transphobia. Regardless, just like Sass says in his author's note, this book is about the light that comes after the dark. Rest assured at the end of the day, this book is about queer triumph and hope!
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This novel gripped me from page one and wouldn't let me go until I'd devoured the entire thing in one sitting.
This thriller follows Connor Major as he is uprooted from his life in the Midwest and sent to a conversion camp on a remote island in Costa Rica. If it was up to him, he wouldn’t have gone at all, but it’s not up to him, is it? Still, he’s determined to work with his new camp-mates to get out. 
I finished this fairly long book in a day - it kept surprising me and I loved the path the story took. I empathized with most of the characters, far more than I expected. It investigates queerness and identity in an interesting, nuanced, sometimes painful, always truthful way, and I absolutely adored the twists and turns! Though characters' sexualities were integral to the story (they'd never be in this situation without it), it didn't feel like that was the whole point of reading: it was a story about survival, about free will, about the opportunities afforded to some but not others. I highly highly recommend this book!
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A book that was super interesting and thrilling at times but was lacking some depth and development. It would have been improved if the course of the story spanned more days as it just felt lacking somewhat. There was great representation and a lot of good ideas but execution fell a tiny bit short.
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I have picked up this book and put it down twice now. I don't think I'll be finishing it, which is unfortunate because it seems like such a riveting and heartbreaking story. 

What I enjoyed: 
1. The writing. The writing is witty and imaginative and I absolutely love the voice of the narrator. 
2. The concept. We need more stories like this in the world! Pain is real, and for anyone who doesn't understand the pain because they'll never have to suffer they way the characters in the story do, reading is the best way for them to sympathize and to grow into advocates for justice. 

What I didn't enjoy: 
1. The exposition is really too slow! The introduction to the characters seemed to drag on forever, and the seemed very unbalanced when compared with the absolutely stunning writing that was being paired with it. I could point to a number of scenes that could have been cut out or condensed in order to make the story a faster read. 

Would recommend this book? 
YES - if you are a stronger than I am and can trudge through the exposition. I believe that this is an important story with a voice that needs to be heard. 
NO - if you are looking for something fast paced and more actionable.
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I really enjoyed this book and what it offered. It's a worthy read, excerpt from the link review: 

"It’s hard to mention more about what happens in the novel without giving too much away. Surrender Your Sons could have easily been a list of grievances but becomes a suspense-thriller that charts new ground. The catalyst is rooted in those campers who came before, including Ricky Hannigan, The Reverend, and just about every member of the staff as they enact the Nightlight program on present-day campers. Connor and his friends unravel the secrets of Nightlight and dismantle its twisted philosophy in the process. Yet, they still have to deal with the trauma of the experience and figure out how their lives will unfold outside of it."
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I was fortunate enough to receive an ARC of this book by Netgalley, and I'm so glad I did because this is, currently, my favorite book of the year. This was a brutal, ruthless thriller about a group of queer teens that are kidnapped and sent to a conversion camp. It's a book I haven't stopped thinking about ever since I've finished it back in April, and I'm so excited for people to read it when it finally comes out.
  Reading the synopsis you might think to yourself, "this is just another book about queer people suffering and being in pain", and while, yes, there are lots of painful things these characters go through, this is much more a book about what queer people do and how they deal with pain. So, despite being brutal and bleak at times, this novel is incredibly hopeful.
  I don't want to give too much away, but let me just say that this was a very well-plotted super fast-paced, and intense story. The characters were relatable and well-written, and this book has the most accurate depiction of being a queer teen living in the 21st century I've ever read. Something that I wasn't expecting but loved was how funny this book was, I didn't expect that a story set in a conversion camp could be humorous but it managed to do it very well.
  A minor complaint that I had was the insta-love, but considering these characters were under a lot of pressure, I honestly cannot blame them for falling in love way too quickly, and I also quite liked the romance.
  So, you should definitely read this when it comes out in September because it's an amazing novel and I loved it so much.
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Sometimes you stumble upon a book with a concept that blows your mind. And every once in a while, that same book actually lives up to the expectations you set from the synopsis.

This was one of those books.

From the moment I read the summary on Goodreads, I was invested in Surrender Your Sons. Queer thriller about escaping a tropical conversion camp? Uh, yes. Sign me up.

I even waited to read this until the summer so I could devote myself 110%. It was worth it.

I cannot wait for this to come out in September so I can blast my adoration all over social media.
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Wow... what a book. I read the description for Surrender Your Sons but I was not prepared for the actual book at all. It was very, very good but also very upsetting. As a gay man myself, I was terrified by the fact that the mother kidnapped him and sent him to a conversion therapy camp. That being said, I felt like the writing was very cathartic and I loved the ending. I also really loved the cover of the book. I'm so excited for this book to come out and everyone to enjoy it as much as I did!
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I loved the suspense in this book!  Great read.  I'll definitely buy for the teens who like something a little darker.
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I think I enjoyed this book a lot more than the average reviewer on here. Most reviews I've seen have been pretty mediocre, but I honestly really liked this book. It's a heavy story, filled with internalized homophobia and external homophobia and people struggling day to day with the innate truths of themselves, but it's also hopeful and a story about strength in numbers and the power of friendship. 

I struggled to see this as a thriller, which I'm pretty sure it was marketed as, for a few reasons. The first is that if this is a thriller, then its use of character's sexuality as plot-twists is a bit problematic (but this is an #ownvoices author, so I'll let it slide) and even if that's not problematic, those are pretty weak plot twists. The second is that I wasn't thrilled. Many reviews suggested that this is a hard book to get through because of the conversion therapy setting and how thrilling the plot line there is and I didn't get that. I was disturbed by the conversion therapy, but everything felt so much more emotional and mental than it ever did physical, which is why I never felt "scared." I'm not sure if this is a failure of the author so much as a failure of marketing. I think if I'd market it as anything close to a thriller, I'd say it's The Maze Runner meets Cameron Post.

I think some readers may have an issue with the cheating storyline, but it personally didn't bother me like it usually would. The relationship is nuanced and understanding and I honestly didn't even like Ario to begin with and was quite grateful when Connor gave Ario a piece of his mind about being forced out of the closet at the end.

Despite it not being a thriller to me, I really enjoyed the hard topics this book discussed and the friendships between the characters. Conversion therapy is not an easy topic to read about, but I think Adam Sass handled it well. I felt so much pain reading this for all the people who have to live in such unsupportive homes. And I hope that they find their way out of them like Connor did. 

I think my few issues with this book chalk down to characterization: I would have loved to know the side characters better, especially Molly and Darcy, because their backstories are brushed aside. With a little more time developing the side characters, this book could be excellent.

Anyway, I think the thing I love most about this book is it's honesty. It's hard to be queer. It's hard to be a queer Christian. It never shamed Christianity, though. It never said that all Christians are like the reverend, but it did say that sometimes homophobes are gay and are struggling and gave us the nuance to understand that evil isn't always cishet. But I appreciated its honesty, even if it's a difficult pill to swallow that the world around us is still painfully horrible to LGBT+ people. 

-Book Hugger
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This is a difficult book to review. On one hand, the writing is great, the characters are very well fleshed out, and the story itself is an important one. The book seems to be saying that LGBT kids can survive anything that the homophobic world will throw at them, and personally I love this sentiment.

On the other hand, this also means the book is actually horrifying. It's about LGBT teens getting kidnapped and brought to a conversion therapy camp, and they suffer not just the emotional abuse, but quite literal physical torture. It makes you sick to your stomach and thus almost incapable of continuing to read. Let alone talk about the book at length.  

So while I think the idea for this book is great and pretty much needed, I don't think I'm the best audience for it, seeing as I barely managed to get through it.
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A heartrending, terrifying book about a teen dealing with 'conversion therapy'.  Not an easy read, but possibly, an important one as it addresses how we deal with acceptance and difference.  The characters were well-wrought, the plot unbelievable, though, not as in 'I don't believe this would or could happen', more 'I can't support the fact that this does happen, it needs to stop.'.
A must-read, if you want to understand what others face that may not be obvious at first.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you to Netgalley for connecting me with the author.
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A truly unique story set at a hidden LGBTQ conversion camp on a remote Costa Rican island. This book has everything I'm looking for in a YA read. I dare you not to become emotionally attached to these characters. It was refreshingly funny for a book that delves into the waters of queer pain. I really appreciated the emotional depth and evolution of the characters and their various responses to trauma, the effects of compulsory heterosexuality and coming out, something I don't think I've seen enough of in YA in particular. I'm excited for this book to exist.
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First of all, please read the warnings for this book. The author and the publisher have done a fantastic job of highlighting things within this book that may be triggering for some people.

This book opens with Connor desperate to see his boyfriend, Ario. He's had his phone taken away which is painful... but not the most painful thing that's going on in his life. Connor's boyfriend was encouraging... well, let's just say it... pushing him to come out. What he doesn't realize is that Connor's very devout mother is going to be a problem. And BOY is she a problem.

She definitely doesn't accept that her son is gay... even to the point of insisting that he's the father of his ex-girlfriend's baby. He isn't...but he's not going to throw his friend under the bus by letting everyone know who is the baby's father. So, he's got no internet, no phone, and he has a very angry mother.

When he's taken in the middle of the night by a huge man and shoved into a black van... the journey is just beginning. Connor has been sent to a gay conversion camp. And it's run by someone he already knows. This is the point at which the novel becomes a mystery, a thriller, a drama, and a love story. I admire Sass for his ability to pull this all off without losing the sense of humor and spirit of the main character.

Connor's inner voice is everything I didn't know I needed. He's quirky and fun, funny and despite his youth, he's pretty aware of who he is becoming. He's unapologetic in some ways and self-deprecating in others... he claims responsibility for things that aren't his fault and acknowledges the weight of things that are. I loved the way that Connor navigates everything that is thrown at him and how he picks himself up time and again. Truly a testament to the human spirit. Best of all... he has the voice of a 17-year-old! It's surprising how often that doesn't happen in YA books!

The cast of characters in this book is fantastic and diverse. All of their voices are unique and despite the fact that there was an army of queer teens, I feel like I got to know them all enough to care about them. There are layers of story in this book... Sass handles it all really well. There is a story going on in the past that rivals the one in the present. These are complex characters and it was a real adventure to get to know them.

And let me say... This is how you write a trans character people! Sass writes about a feisty supporting character who is trans without ever dead-naming the character or using the incorrect pronouns! I can't tell you how much I appreciated that when I read it!

Oh, and the priceless and perfect use of the word "differenter" made me so happy I could have cried.

Please read this book. Not only is it about a very important and timely topic - even now we are only just beginning to ban conversion therapy because of the damage it can do to a person's psyche, but this book is charming, tear-jerking, heart mashing and adorable. I absolutely loved it.

Review will be posted on my blog August 8
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