I can’t believe I binged this. I started it around 4 PM on my way home from work and was done by midnight. I wasn’t expecting to love this as much as I did, but it just hit all the right notes for me.
Books like this and Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda make me sad that these weren’t around when I was a teenager, but also incredibly happy at how far we’ve (allegedly) come as a society and for the future LGBTQ+ teens out there. I have two more Freak Show and Geography Club that I picked up a few months ago and am excited to read in the next few weeks. Books like these and the more recent comics I read in No Straight Lines make me feel like those old LGBTQ+ individuals on YouTube who are in awe of the freedom we have today.
I may be pre-determined to like this as I’ve always found the untouchable (republicans, Mormons, straight men) to be enticing, but seriously, I may have whooped about this one:
“He’s Mormon eye candy. This flash of infatuation won’t go anywhere interesting. I wouldn’t let it—we’re on opposite sides of a very thick fence.” (Loc. 299)
What I found to be incredibly enjoyable and poignant about this book was how they treated sexuality and religion. The authors of this book didn’t make it the be-all and end-all. They showed the struggle of both characters (an outsider and an insider) and how they both handled living in a very religious town, Provo, Utah.
I felt the authors did a great job of not completely lambasting Mormonism/religion and yet at the same time didn’t talk down to young adults who may be fighting their own internal battles with sexuality and religion.
“In summary: love and respect, but only if you’re willing to live by their rules . . . and if not, then exclusion is the only answer.” (Loc. 917)
“I don’t actually care if you break my heart, Sebastian. I went into this knowing it could happen and I gave it to you anyway. But I don’t want you to break your own. You have so much space in your heart for your church, but does it have space for you?” (Loc. 3, 302)
“There’s the devil on one shoulder, the ignorant perception that I get from all sides, both inside and outside the queer community, who say bisexuality is really about indecision, that it’s impossible for bisexuals to be satisfied with one person and the label is a way to not commit. And then there’s the angel on the other shoulder—who the queer-positive books and pamphlets encourage me to believe—saying that no, what it means is I’m open to falling in love with anyone. I’m happy to commit, but the specific parts don’t matter as much as the person.” (Loc. 227)
Another thing the authors get really right about this, that Simon misses is that teenage boys are horny. (Or all teenagers if you haven’t watched Netflix’s Big Mouth yet.) Now I’m not saying there is anything explicit in this book, there’s one scene that afterward it’s alluded to exactly what happens, but the squeaky cleanness of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is shocking when you take into account that this book has a MORMON as the primary love interest.
I did enjoy dipping my toes into the teen first love in this book. Tanner and Sebastian were just adorable. There were so many times that I got a little giddy because of the sometimes overly sentimental and sometimes point blank frankness. Take these four just from the first part of the book.
“This is how we reveal ourselves: these tiny flashes of discomfort, the reactions we can’t hide.” (Loc. 1,180)
“I have the melodramatic thought that this is what it’s like to have a heart broken. There’s no shattering; there’s just this slow, painful fissure that forms straight down the middle.” (Loc. 1,493)
“He wants to read my book, the book about falling in love with him. But how can I send my heart to him when he’s just said, in no uncertain terms, that he doesn’t speak its language?” (Loc. 2,397)
“But if a tree falls in the woods, maybe it makes no sound. And if a boy falls for the bishop’s closeted son, maybe it makes no story.” (Loc. 3,439)
The other thing that really got me was the loving parents. Unless you are an LGBTQ+ identified individual there are very few if any situations that can put you into the same situation of coming out. It is by far one of the most stressful, liberating, terrifying, beautiful, and defining things and LGBT individual can do, but don’t always do. It’s also something that happens constantly over your lifetime in various ways (thanks Eve Sedgwick – Wikipedia link). There are very few coming outs that are more daunting or impactful than coming out to yourself and coming out to your parents. This line hurt to read.
“‘You are not helpless here. But you need to be clear about what you are and are not willing to tolerate.’ He tucks a finger under my chin, lifting my face to his. ‘Are you willing to be a secret? Maybe you are for now. But this is your life, and it will stretch out before you, and you are the only person who can make it whatever you want it to be.'” (Loc. 2,236)
It hurt because of its beauty. Tanner’s parents in this book were so loving and understanding that they were able to look at the further reaches of Tanner’s blossoming relationship with Sebastian. The process of coming out to oneself is something that can feel like ripping a band aid off or opening all the windows in a musty house or turning a light on in a dark room. Simultaneously it can be the most emotionally draining thing you will do in your entire life.
If there was a drawback to this book it was the under-focus on books and writing. I get that they were focused on the love story and character development, but they only mentioned 11 books and we rarely got to read Tanner’s book. I mean technically I think this book is Tanner’s book but that wasn’t made explicitly clear.
Recommendation: YES. YES. YES. This is a horrible review because I binged this and had so many thoughts. I feel like I will need to re-read this in the future to really process it. If I had to recommend a this or Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, I would pick this one. I mean don’t get me wrong the squeaky clean coming out of Simon is what made it an attractive LGBT book to be adapted and released by a major motion picture studio, but this book had more heart and more feelings.
Opening Line: “The end of our final winter break seems almost like the beginning of a victory lap.”
Closing Line: “‘You’re here,’ he said. I felt his arms slide around my waist, hands linking at my lower back. ‘I’m here.’“ (Whited out to avoid spoilers, highlight to read.)
Additional Quotes from Autoboyography
“His smile ruins me. The feeling makes me uneasy, a dramatic lurch that tells me I need to have him or I won’t be okay.” (Loc. 250)
“I can’t read him. I can’t grasp him. I have no idea what he’s thinking and if he’s messing with me or if he really is this good, but never before have I wanted so fiercely to lean forward and put my mouth on someone’s neck, begging them to want me.” (Loc. 1,018)
“It isn’t his first kiss—I know that—but it’s his first real one.” (Loc. 1,158)
“A God worthy of your eternal love wouldn’t judge you for who you love while you’re here.” (Loc. 2,017)
“I realize now that what I thought was easy—writing a book—really was easy. Reasonably speaking. Anyone can start one. It’s finishing that’s impossible.” (Loc. 3,432)
“I want to be at least partly responsible for showing him that what he might lose is outweighed by owning his life, completely.” (Loc. 4,354)
Books mentioned in Autoboyography [Links to my responses]
- A Million Little Pieces – James Frey
- The Stand – Stephen King
- The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver
- The Unbearable Lightness of Being – Milan Kundera
- Elmer Gantry – Sinclair Lewis
- Sula – Toni Morrison
- Inheritance Cycle – Christopher Paolini (1, 2, 3, and 4)
- The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
- Harry Potter Series – J.K. Rowling (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7)
- The Glass Castle – Jeannette Walls
- Night – Elie Wiesel