I want to begin this review by saying that I have followed Adam Sass on Twitter for quite awhile and when I saw Surrender Your Sons pop up on NetGalley, I immediately “wished” for it. When my wish was granted a couple of months, I literally shrieked out loud.
Connor Major trusted his boyfriend when he suggested that Connor come out to his family, but it turns out to be an utter disaster. Connor’s religious mother strongly objects to the revelation, confiscates his phone, and ultimately has him shipped off to a conversion camp on a secluded island near Costa Rica.
In theory, if Connor follows all the directions, he can leave after a week.
But no one ever leaves after only a week.
Connor and his fellow campers quickly realize that they have no way to get off the island and no one even knows where they are, so their only solution is to band together and make an escape plan.
This was an amazing book. It’s a queer version of Lord of the Flies, but it’s so much more than that. There’s also a mystery component related to someone Connor knows from his hometown, and from the very beginning, it’s clear that (much like the island from Lost), this island holds many secrets (but without the polar bears). Finding out the truth is almost as important to Connor as getting off the island.
The plot unfolds via Connor’s first-person narration and he rarely holds back. He’s definitely out of his element, and while he’s on the island, he begins to question everything about his life back home. He doesn’t know who he can trust when it comes to the campers, but he doesn’t have much choice but to take a chance with his new friends.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the political elements of this book. The concept of conversion camps is inherently political, and while the practice has been outlawed in many states, it is still legal in certain parts of the country. Multiple studies and scientific evidence points to the detrimental effect of conversion camps on queer people, but the programs are still permitted to operate. Sass tackles the subject with unflinching grace; this account is fictionalized, but it’s based on fact—this, or something like this, has been (and still is) the reality for queer teens across the country.
I would absolutely recommend Surrender Your Sons. This is a monumentally important book and I think that everybody should read it. I was riveted from the very beginning, as I watched Connor and his friends face insurmountable odds. I hope this book wins all the awards and I can’t wait to find out what Sass is working on next.
I received a copy of this book from NetGalley/the publisher in exchange for an honest review.