These reviews have been copied from the New York Public Library’s Website – http://www.nypl.org
PW Reviews 2013 May #1
Hartzler makes his debut with this accessible memoir about coming of age in a very strict Christian family. Aaron, the oldest of four children, has always been a stellar son, following his parents’ edicts to the letter—no television, secular music, or movies—even when he doesn’t fully understand them. He’s also a joyful soldier of the Lord, happy to help his mother lead their neighborhood Good News Club, or lend accompaniment to his preacher father at church services. But when Aaron turns 16, his natural desire to explore the larger world outside his faith, including listening to pop music, dating and experiencing sexual attraction, and experimenting with alcohol, is perceived as rebellion, stirring up big trouble at home and at his ultra-conservative Christian school. Many readers may find the circumstances of Aaron’s sheltered upbringing hard to believe. What rings very true, however, is the author’s thoughtful search for answers to his heart’s biggest questions, and his pragmatism and sense of humor on the journey. Ages 15-up. Agent: Michael Bourret, Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. (Apr.)
Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC
School Library Journal
SLJ Reviews 2013 May
Gr 9 Up—Hartzler grew up in an Evangelical Christian home, where he was taught that the Rapture might happen any minute. As he grew into his teen years, he began to question this belief and to be drawn to more worldly things-movies, rock music, plays, literature, and kissing. To a secular audience, Hartzler’s parents’ rules about whom he can befriend and how he can live his life may come across as draconian, but the author is open and fair about how they lived their beliefs and how they always loved him, even as their rules drove him away. Hartzler is honest about his sexual encounters with girls (and boys) and about underage drinking that happened at parties he attended. His memoir is appealing because of his honesty, and forthrightness. When writing about Evangelical Christians, he never takes on a condescending tone. He shows where his own questions led him, even as he shows how his parents saw things very differently than he did. His style is clear and lively, and he makes readers see how the questioning of his faith began, and how it grew. Readers will want to spend time with Hartzler to find out how he became true to himself and what choices he made on that journey.—Geri Diorio, Ridgefield Library, CT
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Booklist Reviews 2013 June #1
Jesus is coming back. That’s what Aaron’s family believes, and as a boy, so does he. But by the end of this memoir, Aaron isn’t sure of much, other than he wants the freedom to be himself. Heartfelt and humorous, this book introduces Aaron; his strict but devoted parents; his grandmother, whose love is unconditional; and the classmates at his Christian schools, instrumental in shaping him. Hartzler writes with a keen eye for detail, whether it’s the early scene in which his grandfather crochets (while he makes pot holders) or the description of what it feels like to make out with a girl for the first time. He is equally sure-footed describing his inner turmoil as he does the opposite of what’s expected of him, all while maintaining the good-boy facade. One of the best things, however, is how lovingly Hartzler portrays his parents, even as they anger him. Aaron’s attraction to other boys is hinted at, but one has to read the acknowledgments to find out more. Readers will hope for a sequel to learn how his family dealt with the news of his sexuality.
Copyright 2013 Booklist Reviews.
The Horn Book
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2013 Fall
All his life, Aaron Hartlzer’s ultraconservative, evangelical Christian parents exhorted him to live to honor the Lord. But as he begins to listen to secular music, drink, and experiment sexually, he struggles to reconcile his secret lifestyle with his parents’ expectations. This is a captivating, honest, and relatable memoir about a teen’s search for his true identity and for love.
Voice of Youth Advocates Reviews
VOYA Reviews 2013 June
Aaron Hartzler heard the word “no” often while growing up one of four children of a Bible college teacher and a Bible club host for neighborhood youth in Kansas City. No movies. No secular music. No GQ magazines. In fact, Aaron was not allowed to engage in anything that might interfere with his relationship with God, except acting. A knack for acting is a skill he uses on and off stage. While attempting to be the devout Christian his parents expect, Aaron has to pretend he is not hiding a stash of Wilson Phillips, Aaron Neville, and Bette Midler cassettes under the seat of his Tercel or having a bromance with a classmate who has unmarried parents who invite him to engage in underage drinkingThe rapture, a belief that at any moment Jesus will take Christians to heaven, becomes a metaphor for Aaron’s dual existence. It adds tension and suspense to the book. At any moment, Aaron (and the reader) knows he can be caught up in deceit and be judged, thus ending life as he knows it with his family. Though the subject—one’s faith in God—is serious, it is presented in a humorous and entertaining manner. Teenagers growing up in strict religious homes and/or those beginning to question religious principles will relate to this book.—KaaVonia Hinton 4Q 4P J S
Copyright 2011 Voya Reviews.