Coming out and acceptance are two harsh realities, which are part of every queer person’s life. On one hand there is the mountain of guilt and foreboding that wears one down, for hiding their true self. On the other, the fear of losing their loved ones if they come out. Lucky are those who find love and acceptance once they do take the plunge. For a vast majority, coming out opens a floodgate of torture – both physical and mental.
So, it is not surprising that Connor Major’s religious mother shunned her son when he came out to her. His phone and laptop was confiscated. He was grounded. He is enrolled into the ‘Meals on Wheels’ programme run by the local church, and is under constant surveillance. But all hell breaks loose when Connor’s mother has him kidnapped and sent away to Nightlight Ministries, a conversion therapy camp that “changes” queer children back to “normal”.
And Connor is not alone. There are many other young queer children, who are fighting with the odd and cruel realities of life at the ‘conversion’ camp. At Nightlight, everyone has something to hide, from the campers to the supervisors, and even the director. Connor is resolute – he must escape from this place, along with the other kidnapped children, but first he must expose the secrets.
Without any shred of doubt, this book is as dark as it can get. Conversion therapy and persecution of queer people is not an easy subject to write on. But there is hope in the form of Connor – the protagonist. He is a complex personality, whose character arc evolves as the story progresses. He is brave, strong, resolute, and full of hope. He also helps other campers in need, and wants to rescue them.
And not just Connor, we have been provided a background for several other campers – their back stories and experiences at the camp. Their time at the camp have shaped them, and continue to dictate their life choices. More importantly, for a hard and dark narrative as this one, the pace makes it a worthwhile read, without getting boring. The element of thrill and suspense makes it more endearing.
Most importantly, ‘Surrender Your Sons’ initiates a conversation about conversion therapy, which parents the world over must engage with. We all need to let people be themselves – and not force them to fit in the mould of the society. Love is love. And no one must be persecuted for who they choose to love.
My Rating: 4/5 stars
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