So this review is going to be a bit different than how I usually post reviews. I read this book with my friend who is a member of the LDS church. I have some thoughts on it and I thought I’d share some thoughts my friend had too especially because she has a unique perspective. I mostly asked her about accuracy and the little things someone who isn’t a member might miss because neither of the people who wrote this book is. There’s a bit of my review, but the majority is going to be her review. She said I could post this here because she doesn’t have a blog and isn’t on Twitter as long as she remains anonymous. Without further adieu, here are our reviews.

My review:

I really LOVED this book. This book made me so emotional. I lived in a small conservative town for a bit and although they did have a strong sense of community, it was challenging in some ways. I really loved Tanner and how sincere he was. He had a great voice and he was just an overall good person. I had a strong connection to him. I really liked the writing, it was really easy to read and I think it had a very down-to-earth feeling to it.

I also really liked the plot of writing a book. I just found it so interesting and honestly bless all these kids because no way would I have been able to write a novel, or even part of one, in high school. I identify a lot with Tanner because I find it hard to write and find words to say or even to make up an idea. I write best from experiences I have or people around me have. I’m not great at making characters up.

I loved his relationship with Autumn, their friendship was really amazing but I disliked the way he treated her. Bisexual people have a reputation for being promiscuous like they can’t make up their mind and I hate that this stereotype was promoted by this book. I know the author was probably trying to show that he was attracted to more than two genders in a clear way but it was pretty clear already that he liked girls because we already know he’s had sex with them before. The whole thing was just kind of really awful and maybe it’s because I’ve never been through a bad breakup or something, but I can’t see myself looking for sex from someone else to distract myself with because I’m hurt. I think that’s a hella shitty thing to do.

Sebastian’s parents were… well they were parents raised with really wrong and awful ideas. The idea that you can disown a child just because of something they were born with is revolting and despicable to me. There’s nothing wrong with being queer. There’s nothing wrong with anyone’s sexuality. This is how people are and there’s nothing wrong with it.

I loved the ending, some people felt like it was too convenient but I don’t really care because I’m all for happy endings. Overall I think this book was amazing and I’m bisexual so I’m always glad to find characters who are like me!

Her review:

Most of the doctrine is really correct in the book and I’m grateful for that. It’s so common for our doctrine to be misunderstood or misconstrued but I felt like this was a very respectful of our church even though there were some small things that were off. To be honest, Provo is a really weird place. There’s a unique culture to Provo that you won’t necessarily find anywhere else. I grew up in Portland so I don’t fit the typical Mormon Stereotype. My experience going to church in Portland is very different than going to church at school in BYU.

One of the biggest things people get wrong about us is that we DO drink caffeine. Drive through Provo and you’ll see drink stands like Swig that sells flavored sodas. Most of these sodas have caffeine in them. We don’t drink coffee. It’s not about the caffeine. It’s the coffee we don’t drink. I see members drink energy drinks and caffeinated beverages all the time. There are some more conservative people who don’t drink caffeine, but it’s not strictly against any rule. There’s no doctrine that says we can’t.

I think the authors did a really good job explaining some of the stuff many people have no idea about. Like missions, the temple, our living Prophet, and they even included a part of The Family: A Proclamation to the world (there’s no need to capitalize it all though!). All of the doctrine was really respectful and it almost looked like it was taken from lds.org. Tanner seemed very speculative and flippant about our beliefs but I understand that as he knew nothing about it and he’s a non-member.

I appreciate how understanding the authors wrote Tanner and that he was really understanding about all the stuff Sebastian is going through. I have a couple gay friends and it’s really so hard for them. But some people have such strong feelings and attachment to the Church that they don’t want to leave it. They feel a strong connection to God and to the doctrine.

The cognitive dissonance that lgbtqiapd+ members of the church experience is nothing to make fun or laugh at. It’s not as simple as detaching themselves and saying “just leave.” Their entire culture and life are surrounded by the church and the doctrine they believe in. To many, giving up their culture is impossible and unthinkable, I have no doubt it would be hard for me. It’s not just places you can do or habits you have, it’s your family, it’s your friends, it’s your entire support system. I’m not saying the church is innocent at all, but I think people, members or not, should be a little bit more understanding when it comes to people who are gay but want to stay in the church. I’m just saying for lgbtqiapd+ members fo the church this isn’t a white and black issue, though most people outside the church seem to think so. In fact, Tanner sometimes acts like that, and I understand why non-members would think it would be so easy to leave the church, but it’s really not.

The last thing I wanted to talk about in relation to this book is that not all Mormons are the same. There is so much variation in the church. There’s a lot of things we disagree on in terms of doctrine and what we believe and how we should act, just like every other religion and organization. We have disagreements and just because one Mormon believes all gay people are evil doesn’t mean everyone does. In fact there’s a huge push to change that narrative and change that idea in the church. There’s a lot of hate towards Mormons and I understand that. But religions made up of millions of people are not all the same. Not all Muslims are the same, not all Jewish people are the same, not all Asians are the same, not all white people are the same. Please don’t demonize us all because a few loud people like Orrin Hatch and Orson Scott Card decided to speak their mind in insensitive and offensive ways. I’m not like that; I have tons of Mormon friends who are not like that. It’s really unfair to group us all together and assume we all agree with EVERY single thing and have the same perspective on everything. We don’t.

That’s all! I loved this book! It was so nice to see such a niche group featured in a book published by a major publishing company. I was really nervous going into this book because the Church is always made fun of in movies and a lot of media (Book of Mormon Musical, South Park etc.) but this book is a lot more unbiased in the way it portrayed our religion.