Friday, January 8, 2010

Book Review: No Going Back by Jonathan Langford

The last time I read a book published by Zarahemla Books, I was so turned off I decided not to ready any more books they published in the future. But this time I had no choice. As a judge for an awards committee, I have to read all the books that received enough nominations to be considered for the award in a specific genre. No Going Back by Jonathan Langford is on my list of books to read.

More about No Going Back from Zarahemla's website:

A gay teenage Mormon growing up in western Oregon in 2003. His straight best friend. Their parents. A typical LDS ward, a high-school club about tolerance for gays, and a proposed anti-gay-marriage amendment to the state constitution. In No Going Back, these elements combine in a coming-of-age story about faithfulness and friendship, temptation and redemption, tough choices and conflicting loyalties.

Just from this description, I had so many conflicted feelings. After the legislation and publicity from CA's Proposition 8, this whole debate of Mormon vs. Same-Sex Marriage left a bad taste in my mouth. I was also worried about what scenes I might encounter in the book, such as gay romantic scenes or fantasies that might overstep the bounds of what I prefer to read.

No Going Back opens up with two teenage boys, Paul & Chad, who are best friends playing video games. Paul is debating about whether he should tell Chad he's gay or not. When he does, Chad explodes and arguing pursues. I almost put this book down at page 14 because of the derogatory and demeaning language. I didn't count how many times the words fag and faggot appeared, but it seemed like I was constantly barraged with them.

But I kept reading and I'm glad I did. The nasty words tapered off and a compelling story began to unfold - a story about Paul, a Mormon boy who happens to be attracted to other boys, but who's greatest desire is to keep the covenants he's made with Heavenly Father. But Paul's just not sure if Heavenly Father even wants him with all these feelings he has bottled up inside. And he's confused about who he really is, sometimes what he really wants, and can't escape the constant thoughts about what these feelings for other boys means about him and his worthiness.

During Paul's talks with his bishop, I re-learned some very important truths I've known and how they apply to other's in Paul's situation - and even in my own life. One of those is that being gay and attracted to someone of the same-sex isn't a sin. It's a temptation. Sin doesn't come into play unless you ACT on those temptations. It's the actions - whether physical or fantasy - that are the sin.

Everyone has temptations. For example, I'm a very visual reader; meaning while I read, there's a movie playing in my head where the characters are real, alive, and living out the scenes I'm reading. Once I read something, it's stored in my head and pulled out that the oddest times, sometimes without me even trying to find it. Funny, sad, romantic, scary, joyful, sexy - it's all stored in my head. Certain scenes become a temptation I don't want to pull out again - and it's a battle to keep them stored away where they belong. It seems like the closer to "rated R" the scenes become, the harder they are to keep stored away in a box with a "Don't Open" sign on it. It would be so easy to give in and replay those scenes over and over again. Which is why I am so picky about what I read.

I liked that the bishop used the pamphlet, "For the Strength of Youth" as a guide for Paul. If there are any parents or church leadership out there wondering how to help their teens in similar situations, I recommend reading the interactions between the bishop & Paul. I thought the bishop's balance of understanding and direction to be inspired and uplifting - reading the scriptures daily, praying morning and night, as well as calling the bishop each day on his cell phone at a certain time for a daily update (even if the phone call was a mere 30 seconds to say "I'm fine. Just checking in.")  The support, understanding, and love Paul found from his bishop gave him a lot of strength to keep moving on during such a daunting journey.

Overall, I'm glad I had the opportunity to read No Going Back. It was thought provoking and had just the right balance to truly portray the conflicts and struggles of a young Mormon boy dealing with same-sex attraction. Very well done.

To purchase No Going Back by Jonathan Lanford, follow the link below:


L.T. Elliot said...

A difficult topic and I'm glad to hear you say it was handled well.

Jonathan Langford said...

Thanks for giving my book a chance!

Rebecca Talley said...

Excellent review, Danyelle. Great job!

Vicki said...

Really good review. I am more interested now in reading Jonathan's book!

Heather Justesen said...

Thanks for the review, I wondered about this book. By the way, you do realize there is no link to buy the book at the end of the post, right?

Review Disclaimer: Sometimes a book I review has been sent to me for free by a publisher or an author. This in no way effects my review, which is my own opinion about whether the book was a good read for me, fit my tastes, and if I would recommend it to others. Other than possibly a free book, I am not compensated in any way for posting a review.