Summary from Goodreads:
It’s going to take a miracle for Joanna Gordon to get through senior year.
Despite being the daughter of a well-known radio evangelist, Jo has never hidden the fact that she’s gay, and her dad has always supported her. But that was back in Atlanta. Now her dad the reverend has married wife number three, and they’ve all moved to small-town Rome, Georgia. When Jo’s dad asks her to lie low for the rest of the year in the hopes that it will help him and his new wife settle in, Jo reluctantly agrees.
Although when God closes a closet door, he opens a window. Everything becomes so easy for Jo once she rebrands herself as a straight girl. No one gives her odd looks. Her new stepfamily likes her. She even gets in with the popular crowd.
And that’s how she meets Mary Carlson, the ultimate temptation. Even though Jo knows this girl is completely off-limits, she just can’t get her out of her mind. But Jo couldn’t possibly think of breaking her promise to her dad. Even if Jo’s starting to fall for Mary Carlson. Even if there’s a chance Mary Carlson might be interested in her, too. Right?
Lord, have mercy.
Jo’s in for one hell of a year.
This review is spoiler free.
“I have mad respect for the faithful, but sometimes that faith involves cruelty to people like me.”
Content warning: underaged drinking, homophobia
It is really hard for me to explain my feelings on this book because I know that it isn’t the best, but like, it is still really important to me? Which always makes rating and explaining things way too hard. As a gay girl from a small southern town who struggles with religion, reading a book about a gay girl moving to a small southern town who is confident in herself and her faith was really important to me. This book made me really emotional because of that, but also it has a lot of flaws, which I acknowledge. Anyways, I’m about to just start rambling, so I’ll jump into the review.
The discussion of religion and sexuality
“Besides, just because I am gay doesn’t mean I don’t pray to the same God as you.”
This was really the one aspect of this book that I was 150 percent in love with and it meant a lot to me. I have been struggling with religion for years, but I have been struggling even more since I realized I was gay because of the way my church and my community treats gay people. This book was a breath of fresh air, it reminded me that there are communities and churches where being gay isn’t like, a bad thing. It reminded me that you can be gay and religious and that spirituality and church are two different things. I can’t really explain how much it meant to me to be reminded this, but it meant a whole lot. Here is another quote on this topic because they really got to me and I want to share:
“Are you a beautiful person who is kind and true and dear and deserving of faith and justice like the rest of us? Absolutely. I don’t think God would have put you here just to torment you.”
How Jo’s relationship with her step-mother grew
In the beginning of the book, I had Jo’s relationship with Elizabeth, her new step-mother, on my list of things I didn’t like because I did not like all of the tension and I definitely didn’t like the way the way Jo was treating her, even though I did understand her weariness. Towards the end, however, I was really impressed with how far their relationship had grown. It was a really nice and realistic transition and I was a fan.
The realistic southern small town setting
Hi, my name is Arin and I live in a small southern town. I mean like, small, like, our official census is in the 140s. The town Jo lived in seemed to be a lot bigger than mine, but a lot of it seemed very familiar. I often feel like small town settings in books are similar to my town or the towns I have experience in, but this one was and I really liked that. The church in particular seemed really similar to the one I grew up in (despite them being different denominations) also. It was just kind of nice? I normally don’t recognize settings, but this time I did so it was strange but fun.
The way B.T.B. was treated
I feel like I am not fully qualified to talk about this situation, so I am going to link this review that I feel explains everything really well. To keep things short due to my lack of knowledge and experience with the topic, the basic situation is that the love interest’s twin brother has some sort of intellectual disability that is never named on page. He is treated like a child even though he is the same age as the other characters, he is treated like a burden, and no one corrects anyone who treats him this way. It really bothered me and made me very uncomfortable, especially when no one corrected anyone who treated him badly. Jo herself was pretty good with him, but she didn’t call out anyone for their behavior.
All of the lying
So much of this plot was based off of lies and it really bothered me. Jo was lying about almost everything to almost everyone and it was just a lot for me. I would love to go into more details but honestly, almost everything was a lie until the very end so we could be here for a while, so I won’t.
The inciting incident
The inciting incident for this book is when Jo and her father and step-mother move to a southern small town. Her dad asks her to go back into the closet while they are there. At first I thought that wasn’t that bad because I know how bad being gay in those towns can be, so I thought he was trying to protect his daughter. He wasn’t. He was trying to preserve his reputation with his new in-laws. I could really understand wanting to help protect his daughter, but asking her to life in the closet to protect him didn’t sit well with me.
I don’t want to say that I don’t recommend this book, but also I don’t want to really recommend it either. I enjoyed the discussions of faith immensely, so if sexuality and faith is a topic important to you, I would recommend looking into it. Otherwise? I don’t know. There was just a lot that bothered me, if it wasn’t for the good faith discussion this probably would have been a two star read for me. I would recommend reading some more reviews and deciding if it is for you or not.