Tanner moved to Provo, Utah a few years ago, and promptly put himself back in the closet at his ex-LDS church mother’s urging. His best friend, Autumn, doesn’t even know he identifies bisexual despite knowing most other things about him. Definitely no one else at his high school, chock full of well-groomed, polite LDS teenagers knows, as the Mormon church has a complicated relationship with homosexuality, mainly condemning it.
But Autumn talks Tanner into a senior year write-a-book-in-a-semester class, and a freshmen at Brigham Young University returns to his alma mater as a teaching assistant. This teaching assistant, Sebastien, “ruins” Tanner with his smile, is gorgeous, popular, funny, smart…and the son of the local LDS Bishop.
No way is he returning Tanner’s smiles, or flirtatiously asking Tanner if he wants help with his novel, or brushing up against him….or is he?
Tanner’s voice is fresh, vulnerable, and compulsively readable. This is an emotionally frought teenage relationship and he delivers the introspective angst in spades. Tanner’s banter with Autumn is great, the meaningful inclusion of both sets of families an uncommon pleasure, and Tanner’s non-LDS self in an LDS town quite eye-opening for folks, such as me, who only encounter small enclaves of Mormons out in the non-Utah world.
This view of Mormonism is not perfectly balanced, Tanner is an outsider, and while he appreciates the politeness, he does think the modesty a bit much, and of course, the whole having to hide himself away from the whole town thing does influence how he sees the Mormon’s rejection of homosexuality. This, of course, provides the main tension of the book: loving who you love vs disappointing your parents. The value of living a spiritual life vs the value of living a life true to yourself.
This is a YA contemporary romance book, so of course, there is some happiness here, despite the difficulties Sebastien and Tanner face. And Tanner is not 100 percent blameless in his actions here, which I both was disappointed in and understood. I wished he had faced more fall out for trying to hide himself as well as his grief-induced actions.
But in the end, this was just so…lovely and interesting and full of juicy angsty relationships. Great contemporary that rang teen-true to an old fogey like me.