CM . . .
. Volume XXIII Number 31. . . April 21, 2017
Adam is hanging out with his friend Mike at the mall, something which might not seem like a big deal to most, but it’s Adam’s first time lying to his parents about who he is meeting. He doesn’t want to lie, but his deeply religious parents just wouldn’t understand him wanting to hang out with an openly gay person in public. Just when Adam is starting to breathe more easily, a woman from church—and a major gossip—shows up and catches the two together. Adam can’t help but worry about the news reaching his parents, and sure enough, when he gets home, he finds his parents sitting at the table with a sketchbook he had hidden in his room. After noticing that some of the sketches feature boys kissing each other, Adam’s parents lose it and force him to go to a Christian camp to reform him. While there, he makes friends with some unlikely people and even develops a romantic relationship with one of his roommates. But things aren’t always easy, and Adam ends up trying to bury his attraction by focussing on his art and spending time with his new friends.
The core of this story is important. There are many queer and questioning teens growing up in Christian homes who are sent off to camps every year for reparative therapy. Same Love is important in that respect; however, the style of the narrative and the writing are unfortunately less polished and more didactic than I would have hoped. The story on the whole relies on a number of stereotypes (the repressed and self hating gay character, the openly gay and effeminate best friend, the repressed Bishop, etc.) and the parents are so vehemently anti gay that there is little room for nuanced discussion or reconciliation. The father, upon discovering Adam is gay, prances around the kitchen table and throws around anti gay slurs to such an extent that I found myself feeling uncomfortable and actually concerned about how young readers might react.
I did actually find the relationship between Adam and Paul to be sweet and well-developed. Paul’s fear of coming out creates a realistic tension between the two, but their development together is halted by Randall’s interference when he tells the Bishop about Adam and Paul’s growing attraction. When Adam is confronted by the Bishop, we find out that he started the camp because of his own inability to reconcile his sexuality and religious beliefs. This happens, of course, but in the larger body of YA literature on the subject, this is a rather well used trope that does not come as much of a surprise.
I admire attempts to write about sensitive and timely topics, but I don’t know that the hi lo format is conducive to the complexity of this particular situation. And while, as I noted, I do appreciate the relationship between Adam and Paul, most of the other characters fell flat. The use of homophobic slurs by Adam’s father also felt unnecessary and possibly triggering to young readers. I do not wish to disparage Correia’s work since it is an important issue that needs more consideration and discussion, but in the end I am not able to recommend this book to young readers.
Rob Bittner has a PhD in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies (SFU), and is also a graduate of the MA in Children’s Literature program at The University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC. He loves reading a wide range of literature, but particularly stories with diverse depictions of gender and sexuality.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.