Sixteen-year-old Anthony Duck-Young Del Vecchio is a nice Catholic boy with a very big problem. It’s not the challenge of fitting in as the lone adopted South Korean in a close-knit family of Italian-Americans. Nor is it being the one introverted son in a family jam-packed with gregarious daughters. Anthony’s problem is far more serious—he is the only gay kid in Our Way, his church’s youth group. As a high school junior, Anthony has finally come to accept his sexual orientation, but he struggles to determine if a gay man can live as a faithful Christian. And as he faces his dilemma, there are complications. After confiding his gayness to his intolerant adult youth group leader, he’s asked to find a new organization with which to worship. He’s beaten up in the church parking lot by a fanatical teen. His former best pal bullies him in the locker room. His Catholic friends even stage an intervention to lead him back to the “right path.” Meanwhile, Anthony develops romantic feelings for David Gandy, an emo, out and proud junior at his high school, who seems to have all the answers about how someone can be gay and Christian, too.
Will Anthony be able to balance his family, friends and new feelings for David with his changing beliefs about his faith so he can live a satisfying life and not risk his soul in the process?
There are a few things to know before you decide if this is the book for you.
First, this book is written as a first person present narration. For some people this is hard to read. (Read a sample before you buy it if you are picky about writing styles.) It’s well done here. It reads sort of like a diary or journal, but in the present tense, sort of like you are just glimpsing into the brain of Anthony as he goes through life.
Second, this is definitely a YA novel. There is almost no intimacy of any kind, a little bit of kissing but even a hand-job is aborted because “it’s not the right time for that”.
Third, this is all about being Catholic and/or devoutly Christian. Not just that Anthony is those things, but this is about his struggle with being gay and a Christian.
Fourth, it is written very well and would do well to be read by any young gay person or parent of a gay child who struggles with merging ideas from the church with being gay.
There were parts I really enjoyed. I loved the progression along the fear axis Anthony takes, from denial, to anger, to regret, to anger again, etcetera. I loved how supportive his family and his (to-be) boyfriend were in this struggle.
I didn’t grow up Catholic, never attended Parochial schools, did not have that vision of God as it was described in the Bible or in this book… so I couldn’t really relate to this story personally. But, I could totally see how it would be wonderful if that was your history.
As for me, I got mired down in the religious stuff and was disappointed the romance wasn’t a bigger part of the story. That’s just my personal preference.
However, knowing that this is a coming of age story about a gay boy dealing with his religion and there is a little romance thrown in, I think if you choose this book based on that information you will be quite pleased with your choice. Note: This story is very respectful of religion and does not bash any religion.
World Building/Characterizations 4
Overall 4 of 5 hearts
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I’m almost 14, so I’m probably looking at this book differently than most reviewers (they seem to be mainly adults). There were a lot of things I liked about this book, and there were things I felt irritated about. First off, I am going to admit to being an atheist, so my reaction is probably not the same as a kid who is a Christian.
I was very angry with the kids and youth leader at Anthony’s church. While I don’t understand the need to believe in some invisible god being in the universe, I do firmly in one’s right to do so as long as they a aren’t hurting any with how they express that belief. Telling people they are awful, perverted, and going to hell to suffer an eternal torment? Yeah, that’s seriously uncool. Also, being a kid is hard enough and becoming a teenager and having to deal with crushes and stuff is even harder without people adding more for us kids to have to agonize over.
I felt bad for Anthony’s family too. I could tell his family really loves Anthony, without any strings attached. To find out your kid is gay and you’ve raised him to believe wholeheartedly that to be a Christian means following doctrine so closely because it’s “the way”, only to discover you’ve unwittingly led him to soul deep despair? That had to be hard, especially given that Anthony felt as if he’d be a huge disappointment to them. I really liked how his family rallied around him, knowing that Anthony was the same “perfect” son they’d always had, and that meant he couldn’t be wrong for being born gay. That it wasn’t wrong for him to be made, by their God, to love another male.
The romance in this isn’t the usual sort found in YA books. Anthony is terrified and spends a lot of the book trying to reconcile his faith with his gayness. He’s literally terrified that he’s going to go to Hell. It’s eating him up inside. When he crosses paths with David and finds they have this as a common ground, their relationship grows. It’s based on faith and mutual respect. I quite liked how the boys’ stopped themselves from going too far with their feelings. They recognized they weren’t ready yet for sex, so stopped. I did feel awful that they seemed to feel a bit of shame, because sex shouldn’t come with a shame tag. I guess that religiously, they have issues with sex before marriage though.
The overall message that love is love, and that if God is love, he can’t hate you over love, is something I think more people need to accept. Too much hate is spread around and wars happening because people want to use God as an excuse. I don’t think if God is actually out there, he’d be too happy with that. I may not be a Christian, but I study religion (a school subject here in the UK) and Jesus seems to say a lot about loving one another and not being judgmental. This book is good for pointing out how wrong that is, using the Bible itself to show why Christians who think being gay is a sin are wrong. Every person who is even slightly religious should read it, as well as anyone who is trying to understand what the religious fuss is all about.