Summary from Goodreads:
Three years ago, Tanner Scott’s family relocated from California to Utah, a move that nudged the bisexual teen temporarily back into the closet. Now, with one semester of high school to go, and no obstacles between him and out-of-state college freedom, Tanner plans to coast through his remaining classes and clear out of Utah.
But when his best friend Autumn dares him to take Provo High’s prestigious Seminar—where honor roll students diligently toil to draft a book in a semester—Tanner can’t resist going against his better judgment and having a go, if only to prove to Autumn how silly the whole thing is. Writing a book in four months sounds simple. Four months is an eternity.
It turns out, Tanner is only partly right: four months is a long time. After all, it takes only one second for him to notice Sebastian Brother, the Mormon prodigy who sold his own Seminar novel the year before and who now mentors the class. And it takes less than a month for Tanner to fall completely in love with him
This review is spoiler free.
“Why was this story any more worthy?
It felt like it was. It felt important. Living in this town is suffocating in so many ways.”
Content warning: homophobia, talk of conversion therapy
Okay, my feelings on this are honestly hard for me to keep up with so I apologize in advance for that, but I feel like I have to talk about this book.
In the beginning, I was really not feeling this, but I kept on reading. Honestly, I only did because the ebook is on RivetedLit for free this month and I was feeling too lazy to hold a physical book. Sad, but true. However, I am kind of glad I was feeling too lazy to hold a book, because the ending of this book hit me really hard. I was reading until 1:30 am which is weird for me recently, I was also crying because part of it was a little too relatable for me, but we’ll get into that later. So basically? I wasn’t a fan of this in the beginning, but by the end it had won me over full force.
Also, for this review I will be once again reverting back to a breakdown of what I liked and didn’t like.
The discussion of religion and sexuality
“Imagine truly believing that God loves all of His Children, expect when they love each other the wrong way.”
That quote made me bawl my eyes out. While I was enjoying the whole theme of sexuality and how religion affects it throughout the whole novel, I really loved it at the end. Reading things from Sebastian’s point of view as opposed to Tanner’s was very surreal and validating, I cannot even begin to explain. It was a little bit too relatable at times, but that is okay. While I love love loved this line of discussion concerning faith more than I can begin to put in words, there were other lines of discussion concerning the church in general that made me a bit uncomfortable. I have not seen anyone else mention it though, so it is probably just a me thing. Either way, this discussion hit way too close to home, in a good way, and I am really grateful for it.
I feel like whenever I write a book review that is in this list format, one of my points for what I liked is related to family. I guess it is just really important to me? But Tanner’s parents were one of my favorite things about this book. They were just so supportive and I loved it so much. I loved how they had such different perspectives on things do to their own experiences and how despite that they did their best to put those aside when necessary and look at things from Tanner’s perspective. It was just really refreshing and I was a big fan.
The whole “writing a book” aspect
I find is kind of funny that I finally decided to pick this book up at the same time I am planning my own novel, given that a large aspect of this book involves Tanner and Autumn trying to write books for a class and Sebastian trying to finish up edits on his own book. It just seemed like a really big timing coincidence, but I really enjoyed it. Maybe it was good I was feeling like holding a book would be too much effort.
Tanner and Autumn’s friendship
It may seem odd that this is on my list of things I liked given that I am also going to talk about something that happened between the two of them in the section about things I don’t like, but in the beginning their friendship was one of my favorite things. When Autumn just showed up with stickers because she knew Tanner would need them? Iconic. Loved it. They were just really wholesome and I am a sucker for a good friendship dynamic, and for the most part the two of them really had that going.
The insta love
I was informed of the insta love present in this book a couple of times, it even mentions it in the summary somewhat (not that I knew that going in because I have a bad habit of only reading the summaries when I am reviewing the book after I finish it). However, even though I was warned, I was still caught off guard by how prominent it is. I felt like Tanner was suddenly just like “wow I love him” before he even knew anything about him other than he was serving as the TA in his class. The insta love really pulled me out of the story, like a lot, in the beginning. Later on, once they had actually talked and kind of gotten to know each other, I was fine with everything but it was a lot for me to handle in the beginning.
The writing (at times)
This is a weird complaint because I didn’t really have an issue with the writing most of the time, other than sometimes it made me hardcore cringe, but towards the end it confused me. Like, don’t get me wrong, I loved Sebastian’s point of view so so much, but I was really confused when the writing suddenly went from first person from Tanner’s perspective to third person from Sebastian’s perspective. I appreciate it, but I don’t understand it? It is just a weird situation lol.
The situation with Autumn towards the end
I loved Autumn and Tanner, they were great. However, the whole thing that happened with them towards the end of the book really bothered me. I feel like they did their best to handle it, but I still wasn’t satisfied? I guess I just wanted it to be discussed and addressed way more than it was. I can’t go into details without spoiling things, but the whole situation and the way it was handled really bothered me.
Overall? This was a pretty decent book that hit on some pretty important topics. It had it’s problems, but every book does. I really really have a deep appreciation for how it handled the topic of religion, it hit me really hard and I can’t explain what it meant to me. I would recommend this book, but I would warn people that are not a fan of insta love that it plays a very prominent role in the beginning of this book.