Every single part of Surrender Your Sons sounded dark, creepy and reflecting the hateful truths of our reality. Basically, a LGBTQ+ mystery with plenty of secrets up its sleeve – sign me up! Luckily for me, the amazing people at Flux and North Star Editions granted my Netgalley request for an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
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.
TW: homophobia, hate crime, murder, violence, physical, mental and emotional abuse, derogatory language, suicide, transphobia, blood, gore, conversion therapy
Sass has burst onto the scene with an incredibly engaging, twisty story that completely blew me away.
This is at times a horrendous, hard to read story, but the issues discussed need to be shouted about. While this particular story is fiction, Connor’s tale is real for so many people in society and other aspects of the plot are still prevalent today. Sass’ writing is brutal, unafraid of shying away from the horrific realities of queer pain without ever feeling exploitative, something which discusses brilliantly in his author’s note which prefaces the story. That note also contains some content warnings, which I thought was a brilliant addition.
However, ultimately, Sass shows how there is hope even in the most awful situations, with a brilliant cast of characters who band together. From the first page, I connected with Connor, feeling that cloying atmosphere of abusive control and homophobia he’s trapped in. His realisation of the similarities between Nightlight and his own home are heartbreaking to read. Sass gives us time with most of the other characters, so they are never as simple as they seem. We explore their stories and even get insights into the villain’s psyches, showing the constant cycle of abuse without excusing their atrocious actions.
There is an excellent mystery thread to the plot, which kept me on my toes throughout. It’s utterly compelling, showing Sass’ skill as it takes unexpected twists and turns. Thrillers are often some of my favourite books and here is a high-stakes, compulsively readable example, brimming over with tension.
It is so hard to write this review, as this is really a book that the less you know before you start, the better. All I can say is Surrender Your Sons holds a jagged mirror up to our society in an unputdownable thriller that I implore you to read.
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