Content warnings (May be incomplete, may contain spoilers, please highlight below to view):
Homophobia including internalized homophobia, religious homophobia, murder/suicide, conversion camp, religious zealotry, large age gap in relationship, sexual content, mental/physical abuse, violence, abduction, pressure to come out
A brilliantly written queer YA thriller! This book had me uneasy and on the edge of my seat for the whole ride. It cycles you through every emotion, and then a couple more for good measure, with some jarring plot twists and jaw dropping moments.
Connor Major’s summer break is turning into a nightmare.
His SAT scores bombed, the old man he delivers meals to died, and when he came out to his religious zealot mother, she had him kidnapped and shipped off to a secluded island. His final destination: Nightlight Ministries, a conversion therapy camp that will be his new home until he “changes.”
But Connor’s troubles are only beginning. At Nightlight, everyone has something to hide from the campers to the “converted” staff and cagey camp director, and it quickly becomes clear that no one is safe. Connor plans to escape and bring the other kidnapped teens with him. But first, he’s exposing the camp’s horrible truths for what they are— and taking this place down.
First off, please mind the content warnings. This is a book that tackles some really heavy and dark topics, and may not be for everybody! There are some light moments and lots of humor, and the writing is fantastic, the characters are interesting and diverse, but there’s a lot to deal with here. For some people, that’s fine, but there was definitely a lot that made me uncomfortable.
The story is told from Connor’s point of view, but the other characters are equally vibrant. I loved all the other campers, and they’re all well developed. However, I really didn’t like I was also not a fan of Ario, Connor’s boyfriend, and how he kept pressuring Connor to come out, which really soured my read on their relationship.
As a few other reviewers have mentioned, the pacing felt off to me. A lot happens in an extremely short amount of time, and while I’m pretty good at suspending my disbelief, I would’ve liked things to be a little more stretched out/developed, especially given the depth of the friendships and relationships that came up.
Final rating: 4.25/5
Thank you to the publisher, the author, and Netgalley for an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.
While this isn’t the book for everyone, I think it’s an exciting and important read. Sass describes it as a book that is not about queer pain, but rather what queers do with pain, and I think that’s incredibly powerful.
With love, Pei