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.
This story follows Connor Major, a gay teen who, at the incessant urging of his boyfriend Ario, has just come out to his mother. She did not take it well at all, especially since she’s become quite a religious zealot after getting involved with a fundamentalist Christian church lead by a super-creepy pastor. Connor hopes his mom comes around and ends up accepting him, but instead, she has him kidnapped in the middle of the night and sent to a religious conversion camp on a secluded island off of Costa Rica.
And thus Connor’s nightmare begins.
This ended up being quite a disturbing thriller — a dark, raw, intense, and heartbreaking story that explored themes of suicide, homophobia, parental abuse, physical abuse, mental abuse, murder, conversion therapy, and religious zealotry. The author did an excellent job of capturing the camp’s horror and the terror of the campers into the written word. We witness firsthand the brutality of the “camp counselors” and the monstrous things they did to their young prisoners. So, in addition to being poignant, the story is atmospheric and evocative.
The author also gives us some fantastic side characters. I thought the queer kids in this story were utterly brave and commendable, considering the unimaginably terrifying situation in which they found themselves. No matter what monstrous events they faced, the theme of hope ran throughout the narrative. So though it was quite dark and creepy in places, there was always a light of hope in that darkness.
I loved the camaraderie and solidarity that developed between them as they faced imaginable odds and ended up turning the tables on their captors. In this way, this dark and disturbing survivalist story ends up being a hopeful tale of bravery and resilience.
Though it was an uncomfortable, intense, and violent book that delved into some pretty gritty places, it was also fast-paced, thrilling, twisty, and adventuresome. In fact, the entire story took place over a period of two days, which really lent a sense of urgency to it. The book also ended up being a compelling mystery as Connor, and a few other campers begin investigating the mysterious death of a former camper, leading them to uncover the camp’s deepest and darkest secrets. I found the story compelling, gripping, and unputdownable as the secrets were revealed to us one by one.
Surrender Your Sons had a satisfying conclusion with everything neatly tied up at the end and is well worth the read. I ended up loving this book and look forward to reading more by this author.
Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with a review copy of this book.
This title will be released on September 15, 2020 but is now available for preorder.