Surrender Your Sons
Published September 15, 2020
About Surrender Your Sons
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.
I remember when this book first came out how intrigued (and scared?) I was by the premise. It’s basically a suspense/murder mystery that takes place inside a conversion therapy camp. It’s dark. But it’s also packed with really fascinating characters, fierce in their identities and in their hope for their own futures. There’s trauma. There’s horror. But there’s somehow humor, light and love, too.
At the beginning, I wanted Connor’s relationships to be simple. For his mom to be a bad mom in an uncomplicated way. For his boyfriend to be a solid support in an uncomplicated way. But, just as so often in life, the uncomplicated didn’t happen. Connor’s mom wasn’t wrong to be concerned about his grades or to take his phone as a method of punishment. But her handling of his identity, and the fracturing of their relationship causes a lot of harm to him. Connor’s relationship with Ario also has a lot of layers, some good, some not good. The deeper into the story I got, the more I appreciated those layers and the fact that those relationships weren’t wholly one thing or the other.
I definitely felt on the edge of my seat reading this book. Some parts were so tense! There’s one part where someone is told that a character is waiting for them in a specific room, and everyone knows this is somehow a trap, but they have no choice but to go look. I felt like my whole body was tense reading that part.
On the whole, it’s definitely a dark book, so take care reading it. Check the content notes and be sure you’re up for it. If you are, brace yourself for a wild ride and some unforgettable characters.
Recommended for Ages 16 up.
Connor is gay. Several other characters are gay. One minor character is transgender. One is bisexual. Connor’s boyfriend is Muslim.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used regularly throughout the book.
Kissing between to boys. References to sex and descriptions of arousal. At one point Connor is trapped in a closet while two characters have sex in the adjacent room. He hears noises and knows what’s happening, but it’s not graphically described.
Connor and the other “camp” attendees come from highly conservative Christian churches/families whose beliefs make it clear that being gay or transgender is unacceptable. At one point Connor and another camper wonder whether they’ll ever be able to attend any church again after their experiences. Both feel that separating Nightlight experiences from their faith won’t be easy, if even possible.
Violent Content – Trigger Warning for homophobia, abuse and violence and references to suicide.
Contains some homophobic slurs. Connor’s boyfriend pressures him to come out even though he doesn’t feel that it’s safe to do so. “Camp” workers literally kidnap Connor and carry him from his home against his will. We understand the same has happened to the other “campers.” Workers use threats, physical abuse, and tasers to control the (mostly) children at Nightlight. “Campers” who do not follow their instructions can be locked in cages.
References to someone being beaten to death with a crowbar. References to someone left paralyzed after being beaten. Two scenes graphically describe murder. References to suicide and suicide attempts.
Brief description of two boys about eighteen going to a gay bar. A man claims he was drunk when he committed an atrocity.
Note: I received a free copy of SURRENDER YOUR SONS in exchange for my honest review. This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog. Opinions are my own.