What a beautiful emotional ride this story was! I went into this book totally blind — I had no idea what it was about (it was a monthly read for one of my Goodreads groups so I thought I’d be brave and pick it up without so much as even reading the blurb). I was delightfully surprised by this special book and ended up loving it.
The blurb is as follows:
Three years ago, Tanner Scott’s family relocated from California to Utah, a move that nudged the bisexual teen temporarily back into the closet. Now, with one semester of high school to go, and no obstacles between him and out-of-state college freedom, Tanner plans to coast through his remaining classes and clear out of Utah.
But when his best friend Autumn dares him to take Provo High’s prestigious Seminar—where honor roll students diligently toil to draft a book in a semester—Tanner can’t resist going against his better judgment and having a go, if only to prove to Autumn how silly the whole thing is. Writing a book in four months sounds simple. Four months is an eternity.
It turns out, Tanner is only partly right: four months is a long time. After all, it takes only one second for him to notice Sebastian Brother, the Mormon prodigy who sold his own Seminar novel the year before and who now mentors the class. And it takes less than a month for Tanner to fall completely in love with him.
As the blurb suggests, the story revolves around Tanner, an 18-year-old half-Jewish bisexual high school student who moved to Provo, Utah with his parents. He is openly out to his parents who are entirely comfortable with Tanner’s sexuality.
However, given as they live in a town where the majority of people are Mormons, they’ve asked Tanner to be especially careful of whom he comes out to. It’s also worth mentioning that his mother, due to heartbreaking issues with the church, is a lapsed Mormon herself.
Where It All Begins
Tanner, who, at the urging of his best friend Autumn, signs up for “The Seminar”, a popular and highly coveted course in which the students write an entire novel in four months under the supervision of a teacher and teaching assistant.
The TA for the course is none other than Sebastian Brother, a gifted author who, after taking the class himself the year prior, is now in the process of publishing his own novel. He is also a Mormon, the Bishop’s son and strikingly good-looking.
From the moment Sebastian walks in the course, Tanner feels a connection with Sebastian — a buzz of electricity between them. Tanner can’t deny his attraction for Sebastian and in spite of his better judgment, finds himself falling for a boy whom he sees as the most untouchable person in Provo. But Tanner is more than a bit surprised when he learns that his feelings for Sebastian are reciprocated.
Knowing the LDS stance on homosexuality, Tanner’s parents are fearful that he is going to end up getting hurt, and they try to convince him that pursuing the Bishop’s son cannot lead to a happy ending. Though Tanner is well aware of the probable outcome of his feelings for Sebastian and he knows that he’d be better off not pursuing the man, his heart isn’t so easily convinced. This leads to an emotional, heartfelt and realistic journey of a young man who discovers he is attracted to Mormon boy faithful to his church — but falls for him regardless.
Being the Bishop’s son, it’s no surprise that Sebastian is heavily involved with his church. As such, he is in the process of preparing to leave on his two-year mission. But Sebastian is also trying to come to terms with his sexuality, specifically his attraction to males (something he’s more or less denied up to this point).
His emerging feelings for Tanner balanced against his obligations to the church, his parents and his community create even more turmoil and conflict for Sebastian. So while this is partly the story of Tanner falling in love with a member of the Mormon church, it is also very much the story of one courageous man’s search to find himself even if it means losing everything else he has ever known.
What really worked for me in this story is the respectful portrayal (at least as I saw it) of the Mormon church. Many stories that portray LGBTQ characters’ struggle with religion tend to demonize the church and all of its members in the process. I found it refreshing this book depicted the LDS church members as friendly, loving, helpful and positive, with a significant focus on service to others and service to the community. In this way, the author does an excellent job of balancing the positives of the church with the divisive ways that religion can, in certain situations, come between family members.
I absolutely loved this character-driven story. The characters of Sebastian and Tanner were realistic and believable, as were the secondary characters and by the end of the book, I felt as though I really knew these people. Each character is richly mapped out so you can understand where each one is coming from and why they react the way they do. Though the actions of both Tanner and Sebastian angered me from time to time, I understood the reasons for those actions. It this way, the characters were easy to relate to.
The story was well-paced and beautifully written with vivid descriptions of settings, making me feel as though I were actually there. But this isn’t just a love story between two boys. Rather, Autoboyography is a tender, emotional LGBTQ-positive coming-of-age novel dealing with issues of identity, church, choice, rejection, acceptance, and family.
This is a relevant book that deals with issues that many LGBTQ teens are facing today and gave a realistic portrayal of what many teens go through while trying to figure themselves out and find their place in the world. In this way, I feel that this is an important book — and a must-read for any teenager who has ever felt different or lonely, no matter what their age now.
Autoboyography is moving story that I connected with on many levels, and although it was heartbreaking at times, I found it to be a beautiful, emotional read with an encouraging ending that felt complete and satisfying to me. Recommended!
You can check out Autoboyography HERE