Mother really doesn’t know best in this tale of a closeted gay teen from a devout Christian household.
Seventeen-year-old Evan Panos excels at conformity. His peers might notice him more if they knew his secret: during summer Bible camp, Evan kissed a boy for the first time. Evan’s strict mother ensures that this “evil” secret stays obscured with prayer and physical and emotional abuse. Through art, secret trips to the nearby monastery, and one-on-ones with his dad at Dunkin’ Donuts, Evan finds pockets of safety. But as his romantic feelings for his best friend, Henry, blossom, the tension between Evan and his mother escalates. Readers will wonder if it really will get better but can rest assured that hope is on the horizon. Surmelis’ own-voices debut wisely uses a first-person, present-tense voice to keep readers in the moment with Evan as he lives through his trauma. Though back story adds complexity to Evan’s villainous mother, she still reads as two-dimensional. In a cast of majority white, Midwestern peers, Evan's immigrant Greek family is a welcome addition—both to the story and to realistic queer fiction for teens. Readers may need tissues (or doughnuts) to make it to the end.
Another heartbreaking novel that pits religion and sexuality against each other, but with an important, culturally specific perspective. (author’s note, resources) (Fiction. 14-18)