Pray the Gay Away: Book Review

Pray the Gay Away

(A Southern Thing #1)

By Sara York

Star football player, Jack Miller, had it all. The perfect family, looks, girls hanging on his every word, and the respect of most people in his town. But one thing was missing--a man to be his own.

When Andrew Collins showed up in small town, conservative Sweet, Georgia, he looked more scrawny mutt than high school senior. Andrew's plan was to keep his head down and graduate high school, leaving his family behind to start his real life.

When he meets Andrew, Jack thinks he's found heaven, but reality holds him in check until one night when his lips gently slide across Andrew's and fireworks go off.

As lust and something a little deeper brings them together, compelling them to take chances, people start to notice. Then the unthinkable happens, and Jack's parents find out he likes guys. The battle lines are drawn and they vow to pray the gay away.

My Review: Jack is the ultimate high school student. Attractive, talented on the football field, charming... everyone wants a piece of Jack. Girls want to date him. Guys want to be just like him. Jack just wants to get a scholarship, get out of the tiny town of Sweet, GA, and escape his father's anti-gay, hypocritical sermons. As the son of the local preacher, Jack can't let anyone know his secret. Jack is gay.

Andrew's family moves to Sweet after catching him kissing another boy. They want to make a fresh start, introduce him to the 'right' kind of people, and pray the gay out of him. To punish him for his indiscretions, Andrew's family restricts his food almost to the point of starvation and watches his every move. His life is a living hell until he meets Jack.

The two young men embark upon a secret relationship, and when things are at their worst, they comfort themselves with the knowledge that they can escape together as soon as senior year is over. But escape might not be so easy. Jack hates to leave his little brother, Billy, behind. The seven-year-old is too feminine for his own good, and Jack's father will not tolerate anything less than his definition of perfection.

I truly enjoyed reading this book. Though I'm not really the intended audience for this book, I thought the story was excellent. As a parent, I must say this: There are some very graphic sexual scenes in this book, so I can't really recommend it for teens under 16. The intimate scenes occur within the bounds of a loving, committed relationship and are tastefully done, though somewhat explicit. There are also scenes portraying child abuse, both verbal and physical.

This book explores many themes that teens (particularly those struggling with their sexuality) might face. Bullying, peer pressure, identity, self-doubt, and depression. The author deals with these issues in a very sensitive, yet forthright manner, and it is a very emotional read in spots. At the heart of it, this book is a romance novel between two young men who fall in love despite the challenges facing them. I hope it gets into the hands of other young men who might be struggling to come to terms with who they are. I also hope it gets into the hands of parents and other readers who might not understand what young LGBTQ people are going through. As for me, I just enjoyed reading it because it's a good book. The ending was not very conclusive, but did stop at a point where Jack and Andrew's lives are on a new trajectory. I'm looking forward to reading the next installment in this tale.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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