Sixteen-year-old Anthony Duck-Young Del Vecchio is a nice Catholic boy with a very big problem. It’s not the challenge of fitting in as the lone adopted South Korean in a close-knit family of Italian-Americans. Nor is it being the one introverted son in a family jam-packed with gregarious daughters. Anthony’s problem is far more serious—he is the only gay kid in Our Way, his church’s youth group. As a high school junior, Anthony has finally come to accept his sexual orientation, but he struggles to determine if a gay man can live as a faithful Christian. And as he faces his dilemma, there are complications. After confiding his gayness to his intolerant adult youth group leader, he’s asked to find a new organization with which to worship. He’s beaten up in the church parking lot by a fanatical teen. His former best pal bullies him in the locker room. His Catholic friends even stage an intervention to lead him back to the “right path.” Meanwhile, Anthony develops romantic feelings for David Gandy, an emo, out and proud junior at his high school, who seems to have all the answers about how someone can be gay and Christian, too.
Will Anthony be able to balance his family, friends and new feelings for David with his changing beliefs about his faith so he can live a satisfying life and not risk his soul in the process?
by Mia Kerick
I picked this up because I loved the premise–a teenager learning to embrace both his sexuality and his faith. I really like reading about lgbtq people of faith. I was also excited to see that it had two other things I love: Boston and Italian families, both things that are familiar to me.
At first, I really enjoyed the story. I liked the main character right away. There were so many great facets, and the story dives right into his intense feelings of insecurity and anxiety. These are relatable for teens in a lot of ways.
Unfortunately, I ended up being disappointed. The story is very black-and-white: there are clear “bad guys” and “good guys,” and clear lines about what “sin” is. I was frustrated so often with Anthony’s friend/love interest, David, because despite being one of the supposed “good guys,” he was even more self-righteous than the obviously bigoted Catholic kids. He was incredibly preachy, and a lot of his scenes were hard to read because they came off as moralizing rather than empathetic.
I was also frustrated by the constant theme of “sex is bad outside marriage” and a lot of heteronormativity, including the expectation (rather than the option) of marriage and family. I was so disappointed in the way the intimacy between the two boys was explored. Again, it only talked about one single view on sexual expression, and it sometimes read like an ad for abstinence.