Written by Christina Lauren

Ever since Tanner’s family moved from Palo Alto, California to Provo, Utah, he has kept his bisexuality a secret, not even sharing it with his best friend Autumn. He has only a semester of high school left before he can finally ditch the Mormon town for college in a city where he is free to be open again about himself. Despite his desire to coast through these last months, Autumn convinces him to take the infamous Provo High writing seminar, in which students must draft a 60,000-word book in 4 months. The prior year a student in the seminar, Sebastian Brother, had his fantasy novel manuscript purchased by a major publisher, and has since become a local and Mormon celebrity as everyone anticipates the publication of his debut. When Sebastian, now at BYU and preparing for a book tour followed by an LDS mission, comes to mentor in the writing seminar, Tanner unexpectedly falls for him hard. As they meet together to work on Tanner’s book outline, which just so happens to be about a queer teenager who falls in love with a Mormon boy, it becomes apparent that Sebastian may actually reciprocate Tanner’s feelings.

In many ways this reads like a typical teen romance, but what sets the book apart is the way the story unfolds in the context of Utah and Mormon culture. There is a fairly nuanced exploration of what it is like to live in Utah as a non-Mormon, as well as what it is like to be a gay Mormon teen. Utah readers will see themselves and their family, friends, and neighbors in these characters as they negotiate this complex intersection of faith, love, sexuality, family, and community, in a way that can build hope and empathy all around. The book necessarily does not shy away from frank discussion of sexuality and sexual situations, so it would be best for older, high school age teens, but it shouldn’t be skipped over; it is an important book for our communities and should be made available to teens. In an appendix the authors include an expansive bibliography of LGBTQ+ resources: not only books, but films, web sites, and phone numbers of local and national support groups. Highly recommended for Utah teens and those who live and work with them, Mormons and those who live in or around Mormon communities or other conservative faith communities, and, of course, fans of romances and LGBTQ+ stories.

Review by Joshua Whiting, Library Media Program/Educational Technology Department, Granite School District
Rating: ★★★★½ (4.5 stars)
Interest Level: Grades 10+

Written by Christina Lauren
Simon & Schuster BFYR
407 pages
Release Date: September 12, 2017

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