So. After more than a month with no particular news on the No Going Back front, this past Wednesday two new reviews were posted, both positive.
One review was from Suey at It’s All About Books, a Utah blog with a couple hundred followers. She awarded it an A- (3 stars out of 5), writing in part:
The internal conflicts [Paul] goes through are heart wrenching. He loves his church and wants to still be part of it, but this is a problem since it feels being gay is wrong. But I loved how this issue was left in a hopeful way, where he didn’t necessarily have to decide, at least at this young time in his life, to deny either part of himself…. Bottom line: In the end, I’m glad I read this one! I would like to think that this book would be a help for anyone, especially a Mormon teenager, going through this same situation.
The second review was from Alison at Alison Can Read, a blog with over 800 followers that’s not particularly directed to Mormon readers although Alison (a Minnesotan) is herself Mormon. My favorite part of her very thoughtful review was probably the following:
I loved the interaction between Paul and Chad. This story is told largely through dialogue. I’m obviously not a teenage boy, but I think Mr. Langford perfectly captured a 15-year-old boy’s voice. Reading about Paul, Chad, and their other friends hanging out whether at home or school was truly enjoyable. I loved how Paul and Chad messed with each other, trading barbs back and forth. It added bits of humor to an otherwise serious book. It also allowed them to discuss difficult issues, albeit in the uncomfortable, halting way that boys and men often do.
Yes! My attempt to depict teenage-boy awkwardness and attempts at camouflage when dealing with serious matters really does work for some readers! Alison continues:
One of my favorite things about this book was that no viewpoint was glorified. We see various members of the LDS community exhibit homophobic behavior, but others who love and accept Paul unconditionally. Paul’s friends in the Gay-Straight Alliance at school challenge him to accept being gay, yet have difficulty accepting Paul’s beliefs as a Mormon. Neither group was immune from prejudice. I also didn’t feel like I was being preached to. Considering that the characters’ religious beliefs were frequently discussed, that’s really saying something.
Alison also raises several concerns, most notably including the question of audience (adult versus teen and Mormon versus non-Mormon). While questioning whether non-Mormons might find the Mormon references puzzling, she also acknowledges the many reviews from non-Mormons who don’t seem to have an issue with this — something I have also found a bit puzzling. She concludes:
I really enjoyed No Going Back. It deals with a very difficult issue that a lot of people have to face. It doesn’t sugar-coat anything. There are no easy choices and no easy answers. There are no heroes and there are no villains. There are just a group of people trying to be good people, be true to themselves, and true to their beliefs and the aftermath when these things conflict.
Her review garnered 15 comments (not counting a rather silly one from me), including a couple from people who themselves might read the book. I’m quite tickled, to be honest.
And then there’s the half-review I referred to in my title, a quick mention of No Going Back about a month ago as part of a collective book report by Darlene Young, a friend of mine from the Mormon literature community. Her thumbnail description: “I think this was an important story and told in an interesting and effective way. I’m glad it was published. The alternating viewpoint got a little monotonous at times and could be repetitive. I’m glad this book exists.”
And so am I (glad this book exists). Otherwise, this blog might not even exist! And that would be truly tragic, for some rather dubious values of “tragic”…