For some, coming out is still hard to do.
Despite the current gay-teen-novel canon that depicts worlds where two boys can kiss in public for hour upon hour or dystopias where teen heroes can just happen to be gay, it can be refreshing to find a good, ol’ coming-out novel. Seventeen-year-old Alabama-born, Pentecostal-preacher–in-the-making Jake Powell manages to convince his Bible-beating dad that he should go to Columbia over the summer to enroll in an exclusive prejournalism program. His perspective widens considerably: He befriends both a gay student and his South Asian roommate and crushes on a girl...maybe. Jake’s religious upbringing overwhelms the text, as he quotes and remembers page upon page of Scripture. It’s clearly meant to show the influence of his growing up a preacher’s kid, but it does get tedious. The debut takes off, however, when things get hot and heavy between Jake and his new friend, Julie. The picture-perfect moment when Jake realizes who he is despite all he’s done to pray the gay away is nothing short of priceless. Shirley’s first is solid but pushes no real new boundaries, which may be a good thing. Despite the countless Bible quotes, his plotting moves smoothly, and his characters feel likable and real.
An author worth watching. (Fiction. 12-16)