Trigger Warning: This review contains elements of sexual assault, depression, suicide attempt and PTSD.
Malachi is the son of a celebrity Baptist pastor. He’s a genius and a well-behaved Christian boy; all that his parents could ever hope for. However, he no longer believes in god and starts to realise he’s gay. When his father starts suspecting the latter, he sends Malachi to a conversion camp. Although the boy knows his sexuality cannot be changed by reason, he fears that indoctrination might change the person he is. He’d have to find out after the camp was complete.
As the story is something a reader must experience on his own, I avoid using spoilers and will focus on other aspects. Malachi is brought to life immediately, with a well-forged character identity. The first few chapters set a clear picture of who Malachi is at home and at school. It also builds the world in which Malachi lives: school, family, religion. Apart from the characters being extremely real, the whole story almost feels like if it were non-fiction; that’s how much the author Damian Jay Clay has succeeded in making me believe this story.
Graphic and Heavy Language
The realness aspect of the story is aided heavily by graphic and emotionally-heavy language. This is especially present in episode of PTSD or sexual assault, which one may feel uncomfortable or distressed while reading. Having said that, I managed to read through the novel (an average of a chapter or two a day) without feeling distressed. I assume that this is partly due to Malachi’s perspective and his strength and resilience. Hence, the author equips the reader with the same resilient and strong mindset of the protagonist.
The book appropriately addresses the dangers that LGBTQ+ youth experience. Many kids experience physical and/or sexual abuse from relatives or religious figures because of their sexual orientation or gender expression. Moreover, this often leads to issues in mental health, such as depression, anxiety, PTSD and higher rates of self-harm and suicidal attempts. As harrowing as this sounds, the book grounds these issues in an extremely real story and humane characters.
There are two things this novel could be useful for:
- Teens and young adults who are going through similar issues may find a way to cope and fight back during their struggles.
- LGBTQ+ or ally individuals will be able to understand a reality beyond their experience. Hence, when we think of what needs to be done in the community, we can empathise and acknowledge suffering that we could currently be blind to.
This novel deserves the full five-star rating. The author has clearly researched and dove into this novel with his heart and mind and delivered an exceptional novel. The development of the story was consistently intriguing, and the characters were believable. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in this story or topic, but caution to put first your mental health and don’t rush through if it may seem distressing.
Book Cover: Goodreads
Book Review: Jeremy Mifsud
Header Photograph: Cristina Gottardi
Header Editing: Jeremy Mifsud