Author: Jonathan Langford
Publisher: Zarahemla Books
Published: October 5, 2009
Genre: YA, Contemporary
A gay teenage Mormon growing up in western Oregon in 2003. His straight best friend. Their parents. A typical LDS ward, a high-school club about tolerance for gays, and a proposed anti-gay-marriage amendment to the state constitution. In NO GOING BACK, these elements combine in a coming-of-age story about faithfulness and friendship, temptation and redemption, tough choices and conflicting loyalties
Paul is your everyday LDS (Mormon) teenager. He enjoys video games. He is an upstanding citizen on his way to earning his Eagle Scout badge. He works hard to be a good member of his teacher's quorum and be a good and faithful Christian. Paul is also gay. In a religious society where emphasis is placed on the value of family and carrying on the Lord's word to a wife and children, Paul must grapple with the idea that unless he changes, he can never have any of that. He must also face scrutiny, judgment, and ridicule in a society where he consistently receives conflicting messages about whether or not who he is as a person is morally wrong.
When I was approached to read No Going back by the author, Jonathan Langford, I was struck by just how poignant this book sounded. Having lived in Salt Lake City for more than four years and developed many LDS friends, I have come to learn a lot about the culture, the belief system and the values. I, in no way, judge what the LDS believe, but I figured this would be a fascinating read, especially with an LGBT context. Langford has created a masterpiece in No Going Back. Brimming with morals but never preachy, heartwrenching but never overdone, the story of Paul is one of valor, life, and love of belief and oneself - something everyone can relate to on some level.
There are a lot of strengths in No Going Back. The prose is real and honest - a bit too gritty and brutal at times, but it works between a male teenage MC and his friends. Paul is well-rounded and tangible, and I enjoyed the level of detail when it came to showing what Paul was attempting to reconcile with in the LDS religion. Now, that's not to say that No Going Back was without his faults. I think there were a few secondary characters like Sandy, the bishop's wife, that simply didn't ring completely true for me. She felt a bit one-sided and flat. I also wish that the time period for the book was explained better. It was important when discussing Paul's decision to vote or not vote on the issue of gay marriage.
All around though, No Going Back was a powerful, moving read with a strong message of friendship, family and tolerance. Whether religious or not, I believe everyone can find a meaning in this book, and need for a few tissues, as it's a tearjerker. I give it a very strong 4.5 out of 5, and I'd recommend it to both fans of YA and adult novels, especially those who enjoy contemporary fiction and LGBT story lines.
I received this book free of charge from the author in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected by opinion or review of this book.