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Ten years ago, God gave Braden a sign, a promise that his family wouldn’t fall apart the way he feared.

But Braden got it wrong: his older brother, Trey, has been estranged from the family for almost as long, and his father, the only parent Braden has ever known, has been accused of murder. The arrest of Braden’s father, a well-known Christian radio host, has sparked national media attention. His fate lies in his son’s hands; Braden is the key witness in the upcoming trial.

Braden has always measured himself through baseball. He is the star pitcher in his small town of Ornette, and his ninety-four-mile-per-hour pitch already has minor league scouts buzzing in his junior year. Now the rules of the sport that has always been Braden’s saving grace are blurred in ways he never realized, and the prospect of playing against Alex Reyes, the nephew of the police officer his father is accused of killing, is haunting his every pitch.

Braden faces an impossible choice, one that will define him for the rest of his life, in this brutally honest debut novel about family, faith, and the ultimate test of conviction.

352 pages, ebook

First published May 19, 2015

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About the author

Kelly Loy Gilbert

4 books388 followers
Kelly Loy Gilbert is the author of CONVICTION and PICTURE US IN THE LIGHT (Disney-Hyperion, spring 2018). She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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Displaying 1 - 29 of 452 reviews
Profile Image for jessica.
2,535 reviews32.5k followers
January 6, 2022
KLGs stories have always put the real in realistic fiction - they are so raw and hard-hitting. and while i didnt enjoy this one as much as her later books, for a debut, this is pretty great.

the reason i didnt enjoy this as much was because i found it to be kinda preachy at times. religion plays a big role in bradens life (the synopsis even mentions it), so obviously i knew it was going to be discussed. i just didnt expect it to be discussed so much. not the end of the world, but it did feel a bit much at times.

but putting that aside, this story is quite heavy. not in a way that it feels burdensome, but in a way that tugs at your emotions and demands to be felt and shared. its a really rough coming-of-age story with complex relationships between father and son and between two brothers. it discusses self-worth, forgiveness, crushes, what it means to be a good person, loyalty, and identifying toxic relationships. theres a lot going on. but man, it sure feels real.

so all in all, a pretty fantastic debut and i probably would have given it the 5 stars if i hadnt already read her later books and enjoyed those more. :/

4.5 stars
Profile Image for Sue (Hollywood News Source).
781 reviews1,594 followers
November 12, 2015
“This is why I hate when people tell me I don’t know how you’re surviving—because that implies you get a choice. What do they think, you’re actually going to die? Because that’s not how it works. You don’t get an escape into nothing.”

An authentic, emotionally devastating book about abuse and faith.

I picked up Conviction a few months ago and during that time I wasn’t genuinely feeling it. But out of the blue, I decided to pick it up again. This time, the magic finally work. It is one of the wisest decision I ever made, because truly, Conviction is a remarkable story.

Conviction tells the story of Braden, the key witness to an upcoming trial about the murder of a police officer. He is the “star” pitcher of his High School baseball team and the youngest son of the popular, Christian radio host, who happened to be the prime suspect of the case.

And when he has to play against the team, of the police offer’s nephew. He is scared of the consequences, he has to face.

Conviction is a very difficult book to read, countless of times, I catch myself being so angry and disheartened in behalf of Braden. I could feel my stomach lurching and my eyes glistening.

The deep attachment, the numbing sensation like you owe them something, like you have to pleased and obey them all the time, that twist forming in your stomach because you disappoint them and you feel like it’s your fault and you have to amend everything, blaming yourself because you didn’t meet their standards they forced on you.

Struggling with violent tendencies.

When you’re bracing yourself for the heated shouts and strike that is about to come, convincing yourself they’re not doing any wrong, that it might be sick and twisted but it is love, that nobody could ever love you but them.

That deep rooted feeling, you’re not worthy enough, feeling broken.


It is abuse.

The abuse portrayal in this book is gut wrenching and spot on. Gilbert present in her writing, how abuse massively affects someone in all these subtle and huge things. It is a tangled of mess. It takes a great courage to get out of that relationship, to convince yourself to get up every morning and live, to try to undo all those psychological damages they inflicted on you, to come terms in your own way and heal.

One of the things, I don’t want to overlook is the spectacular voice of the narrator. I admit, I initially struggled at the first couple of chapters, but eventually the story moves forward to my liking.

Despite with my usual difficulty in forming attachment with male narrators, Braden is such a gripping character to read. The characterization is well done and complex. I could empathize with his journey.

Identically Braden’s older brother, Trey is another fantastic addition to our minuscule cast. He left his father years ago. Now, he is back to be Braden's legal guardian. It’s been years, since they last saw each other. They’ll slowly have to establish their relationship once more. And like his younger brother, Trey is reserved and has a mysterious “past” behind him.

Similar to the abuse aspect, Gilbert also explored the complicated relationship between the two brothers. How their history and affiliation to their father is similar, but not entirely the same. It is painstaking and fascinating to read. The tenderness and fierce loyalty between Braeden and Trey is definitely my favorite thing about Conviction. It shows the author genuinely knows the craft she created.

Sure, it is not a perfect book for me. There are parts, I didn’t liked per example, the thorough chapter of baseball. And I guess, I would have liked it more if I’m a religious person.

Overall, Conviction is an unshakable debut. It is gutsy and emotionally compelling.

Review also posted at Hollywood News Source.
Profile Image for Angela.
632 reviews1,333 followers
January 26, 2016
Conviction was actually a surprise to me. I was very lucky to receive and ARC of this from Hyperion. I wish I could have quoted some of this book but since its an unedited/corrected copy I decided not too. So I'll just get straight into the review.

I have a hard time relating too a male's POV. This wasn't at all an issue for me when it came to reading this. With the book starting out earlier in his life and sliding into what his situation became it made it a lot easier for me to get into his story. By the end of the book my heart was broken repeatedly for Braden. Braden lives a pretty simple life with his radio host father. His life takes a dramatic turn when his father is charged with the crime of killing a cop. That would throw anyone's life for a loop but being the key witness to the crime takes his situation to a new level.

Braden is stuck in the position that puts both his fate and his fathers in his hands. What he says on the stand could change both of their worlds. If that isn't enough Braden's brother Trey comes back into the picture to take custody of Braden, and picks up emotionally right where their father left off. Braden is a male protagonist that puts other male protagonist to shame. He is what I wanted out of a leading male character in so many other books. It was crazy amazing to see a character both become so isolated and yet break out of his shell. There are some sub/back characters but hands down Braden over shadows them all.

The plot was perfectly laid out all leading up to what actually happened that night. The way things unfolded one after another will leave you breathless. I thought the title of this book was just about the court case in itself, but it's not. It turned out to be a witty turn of phrase that embodied so much more. It's a word that you forget can mean so many more things. It captured the case, his family, and his religion. Yeah, I know you just heard me say religion and if you are some people you might be turned off by that. I am not a religious person, so when I do hear a story involves a lot of religious aspects it can put me off to reading it. THIS IS NOT THE CASE WITH CONVICTION! Religion never takes over the story. This is a book with lots of turns, and an extremely strong message and plot. I agree 100% with other reviewers, This book will win awards.

Profile Image for Jessica Taylor.
Author 5 books230 followers
August 22, 2014
CONVICTION is simply one of the most compelling books I've ever read. It's the kind of writing that grabbed hold of me and wouldn't let me go, the kind of book where it was late at night and I kept telling myself just One. More. Page. Braden's voice is authentic and heartbreaking. The way baseball operates as metaphor throughout the story is executed with skill I don't believe I've ever encountered. The relationship between Braden, his father, and his brother is complex and subtle, building to some devastating revelations. Kelly Loy Gilbert is a master! This book is going to win awards!
Profile Image for I.W. Gregorio.
Author 7 books374 followers
July 19, 2014
I wish I had the words to describe how gripping this book is. How well-written, deftly plotted and emotionally devastating. It's been a long time since I've read such deftly drawn and deeply human characters. I agree with the others who have said: This should win awards.
Profile Image for Alison.
Author 3 books33 followers
January 3, 2015
Heartfelt, multi-layered, and not afraid to deal with BIG questions, Kelly Loy Gilbert's CONVICTION leaves the reader with so many things to think about. I love the complexity of the characters, the honest portrayal of faith, and the relationships that form, grow, and develop throughout the novel.

Also, there's baseball.

CONVICTION is a homerun for any YA reader. (Sorry. I couldn't resist. Plus, it's true.)
Profile Image for Paige (Illegal in 3 Countries).
1,225 reviews391 followers
March 10, 2018
See more of my reviews on The YA Kitten!

Warnings for Conviction: suicide attempt; gaslighting; physical, emotional, medical abuse of a child; toxic masculinity; racism; homophobia

Upon finishing Conviction, I loved it. The experience was deeply emotional and took a lot out of me as it painted a complex picture of a teen who’s been brainwashed, gaslit, abused, etc. by his racist, fake-Christian dad.

After thinking on it for a while, I now despise Conviction and its bad case of White Boy Plight. My relationship with this book is very complicated.

White Boy Plight (noun): a piece of media such as a book or film that centers a white boy’s pain when the characters surrounding the white boy–especially POC characters–are neglected despite being just as important to the story and having just as much going on. Especially so if the white boy’s pain is a result of them having directly or indirectly harmed a POC character.

You can call bull on me and my definition. I really don’t care. It’s the easiest way to help others understand what the issue with Conviction is. After all, not every book about white boys with problems has a case of White Boy Plight. It’s a very specific situation that I hope I’ve clearly outlined for you.

Now then.

Braden is an incredible character who goes through hell throughout the novel. It’s traumatizing to see your dad arrested at gunpoint for murdering a policeman, you know? But that doesn’t begin to compare to the trauma Braden suffered as the child of a deeply racist, pseudo-Christian father like Mart, who’s made a name for himself as a (racist) Christian radio host.

Each chapter, we seem to learn something new that Mart did to Braden. Physical abuse by hitting him, medical abuse by treating his son’s broken arm as no big deal and purposely dehydrating the poor kid during a blistering hot California summer, emotional abuse in too many ways to name,… He’s been put through hell and is suddenly without the one person who’s been the sole pillar of his life for so long. He had his brother Trey once upon a time, but Trey left home when Braden was about six. And now Trey is back because either he cares for his brother or Braden becomes a ward of the state.

God, it’s heartbreaking to see how Mart’s abuse of both Trey and Braden manifests in who they are. These two brothers have a chasm the size of an ocean between them thanks in no small part to how Mart brought up Braden once Trey was out of the picture as an influence. Over the course of the novel, more of what Mart put both of them through comes to light and it’s ugly–especially on Trey’s part. He got most of the physical abuse. As Braden crawls closer to a breakdown under all the pressure, the reader is taken to some deeply unpleasant places. Conviction is a dark book, y’all. VERY dark.

The focus of the novel is Braden coming to terms with the abuse he’s been put through and the conflict surrounding his father’s upcoming murder trial, in which he’ll be the defense’s key witness. If Braden tells the truth about what happened, his father will be found guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt. The only chance Mart has is for Braden to tell the story Mart told him–and Braden is no longer sure what he should do. All the self-internalized blame he’s gathered over the years clashes with his realizations that how dad was awful to him. No wonder he’s on the road to a breakdown!

That’s all well and good, but then there’s Alex Reyes: Latinx boy, brother of the policeman Mart is accused of killing, witness to the crime, and Braden’s future opponent on the baseball diamond. Both boys play on their respective school’s baseball teams and their schools will have a match right around the time of the trial.

Why does Alex not have a point of view in this book?!

Alex’s brother is murdered right in front of him. Because he and his brother are Latinx and the accused is a white man well known in their conservative community as a radio host, he has an uphill battle to fight if he’s going to get justice for his brother. His obstacles include racism, his own grief, a local criminal justice system that’s wildly biased against him, the white guy’s made-up story of what happened, and a baseball game against the kid of that asshole white guy.

Alex’s experiences and point of view are just as important to Conviction as Braden’s, but everything is about what Braden is going through. Who tells the story matters! Leaving the focus solely on Braden so Alex’s thoughts and feelings remain a mystery is a fatal blow to the novel’s themes regarding racism and justice. It absolutely guts what Conviction wants to do, leaving it almost toothless and weak in its messaging.

And the end of the novel? Pardon my French when I say FUUUUUUUCK YOU, BRADEN. His pithy attempt at a Jesus moment is so infuriating that there are no words of gifs to express my anger. Even with all he’s been through and my understanding of why he made the choices he did, he has none of my sympathy whatsoever for them. Alex would have been within his rights to beat the living daylights out of Braden. The ending is that bad.

Do you get why I said my relationship with this book is complicated? I’ve gone on about it for nearly a thousand words. The White Boy Plight problem is bad enough that Conviction will never get a recommendation from me. Not even for people looking for dark, complex books about the long-term effects of lifelong child abuse.
Profile Image for Marci Curtis.
Author 2 books266 followers
February 26, 2014
I had the absolute pleasure of reading this book recently, and IT. IS. INCREDIBLE. Clear, developed, authentic voice? Yes. Beautifully drawn characters? Yes. Compelling plot that surprises, keeps you guessing, and hooks you from the very first page? Oh YES:

Baseball champ Braden is thrown the biggest curveball of his life when his Christian-talk-show-host father is arrested for the murder of a police officer. His father's arrest not only prompts Braden's older brother, Trey, to return home, but also uproots his family's secrets and forces Braden into the biggest challenge of his life: testifying in his father's murder trial, which will either save or end his father's life.

Loy Gilbert's characters--their loyalty, their beneficence, their struggles--invade the heart. And all while, they take you for a ride, shock you, change the way you view relationships and family, keep you thinking long after you've turned the last page. I can't wait to read more from this brilliant author.

Profile Image for Jeanette.
3,275 reviews558 followers
September 28, 2015
Braden's baseball "pitcher think" and standards of honor on and off the game field gave me the impetus to continue with this book. Those core points framed the book and were much the best components. His intelligence, common sense and strong senses of loyalty and individual spirit held the plot (sometimes confusing to actual details)together on a path of interest.

Otherwise, it was much the standard and extremely common (since 2010 endemic)- family dysfunction, young person in terrible angst dishing on the parental bullying and wire coat hanger tale. Times two on this one though, because Trey's misery spewed out for the double layer of much the same. The ending felt peaceful, and surprised me. But I doubt that Braden was in any improved company when I thought about possible aftermaths.
Profile Image for Maya White-Lurie.
498 reviews7 followers
June 23, 2015
Though the characters are unlikeable (and in Braden's case moronic), the writing was initially tight enough for me to be drawn in. Unfortunately, the story falls apart at the end and no characters develop. Also, this could have gone without all the heavy-handed baseball metaphors. A few would have been fine, but they distract from the story.
129 reviews4 followers
February 5, 2015
Whoa. This is a hell of a book. Unpredictable, painful, dangerous, and so well-written that no easy answers are possible. It also captures, maybe more than anything I've read since Bastard Out of Carolina, the desperation, crippling anxiety, and shame known by abused children (and adults).
Profile Image for Nat.
301 reviews6 followers
February 14, 2015
**This book was given to me in exchange for my honest review**

Somewhere between 3 and 4 stars

I wasn't expecting to get caught up in this story as much I was, especially because I was in the middle of reading a really good book series. However, I felt that if I didn't read it now, I might not ever get to it. And I'm pretty glad I did.

First off, I wouldn't label this a Christian book, although there are themes of religion and Christianity involved. Being raised in a Christian church and going to a Christian college, I'm familiar with some of the settings. However, the description about the main character's faith in God was kind of what drew me to it.

Braden is the main protagonist, and basically, his family is all kinds of dysfunctional. Since he lives in a small-town community, you'd think his dad being accused for murder wouldn't gain national attention, but it does for two reasons: who his dad is accused of murdering, and that fact that his dad is an outspoken Christian radio host.

When Braden's brother comes back to town after being gone nine years without any communication with Braden of their father, things start to unfold about the life that Braden has been living.

It's a painfully realistic story of how so many kids and teens can and have been manipulated by those in authority, and in many cases, by their parents. Not only that, because of his belief that God will make everything right in a conventional sense only exacerbates the confusion and low self-esteem in himself.

Although he knows he's a good pitcher, we get to know just how low in the totem pole he thinks he is, and it's a sad and brutal look at the life of a boy so subtly manipulated into thinking that only one person can love who he truly is.

But during the worst time of his life, when he thinks his whole world is falling apart, as it seems to be the case, we also see a boy climbing out of his shell and finding his own path, be it in some odd rebellious way. It's a tough road to watch him go through, and sometimes you think, how could one boy deal with all these ever-growing problems? How can he overcome this situation when all these other things keep piling up.

And you might be surprised at how things go in the end for him and his family.

What I liked about this story is that I could imagine there are Bradens in this world. Braden could've been a classmate of mine that I didn't really know. He could be living his life next door in a psychologically damaging situation and I wouldn't know anything about it. There are many teenagers that live life thinking their parents are the best parents in the world. Some are the best parents to their kids, but some are most definitely not. And it doesn't have to be in a physical abuse type of way. It can be subtle, like in this story.

The realism is the idea that the dysfunction of this family doesn't start with that father, but that it probably started with the father's father. Ultimately, though, each person is responsible for their own mistakes, and sometimes people fail at fixing those mistakes before it affects those they love.

There are many complex issues involved in this story, sometimes too complex to really deal with in this one book, but how its dealt with in the story is thought-provoking, not radical.

The only thing that worries me is the idea that in these days, putting people of faith in a bad light often becomes the reason for many to disallow the presence of God in their lives. Still, the story doesn't disregard God completely. And it doesn't put other issues on a pedestal, either, but only acknowledges them as part of the complexities of being a human.

Each character brings something cohesive to the story, and I appreciated that, because it showed how different we can be when it comes to certain topics, especially love and faith. In that sense, I couldn't hate any of the characters for their flaws, even the father (even though I'm sure many probably thought worse of him.) I did, however, feel much pity for Braden's dad.

In the end, I felt it was satisfactory in the way that there's hope for Braden to find the good within himself. I'm not too particular with somewhat open endings, but this was just fine.

The reason the book didn't get a higher rating from me was I found that the writing, or maybe the sentence structure in general, confused me at times where it pulled me out of the story and I had to reread it to understand what the author was trying to convey.

There are also several flashback scenes throughout the book and for me, it was sometimes hard to find when the story went from the flashback to the present again. I'm hoping that maybe that was only because I was reading it in ebook format and there wasn't a way for me to set the font to publisher default, thus putting everything in the same font/style. Hopefully this will be rectified in the print version of the book and in with publisher default availability in the official ebook.

But aside from the that, the story was solid and honest and heartening. And despite my middle-ground rating, I do recommend this book mainly because I liked Braden and I like to think the Bradens in this world can get a chance to find the right path, with God's help, too.
Profile Image for K..
3,685 reviews1,007 followers
May 9, 2017
Trigger warnings: domestic violence, emotional abuse, homophobia.

I.......did not like this book. I didn't even really want to read this book. But it was for book club, so I did.

I've seen a lot of people talking in their reviews about the baseball metaphors and how well it all worked. I know nothing about baseball. I have zero interest in baseball. To be perfectly honest, I skimmed over a lot of the baseball stuff because I gave zero fucks about it. Maybe if I'd paid more attention, I would have seen the metaphors and had a "OH YES I SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE" reaction to them, but mostly, I was like "UUUUUUUUUUUGH, MORE BASEBALL???" So.

I wasn't a big fan of the writing or of Braden's voice, but I think the thing that frustrated me the most was the lack of character development. Braden gets all these big revelations about what an enormously shitty person his father actually is (CLASSIC gaslighting with a side of "you didn't do as well as I think you should have done, therefore I'm going to take your water and you can walk the 2 miles home in 105 degree weather to think about what you've done" bullshit) and about why his brother left town. And yet he continues plodding along, just like he's always done.

Maybe it was meant to demonstrate the nature of abuse and how worn down you become by it? But it felt very much like Braden was being presented with evidence, considering the evidence carefully, and then going "Nah" and just maintaining the status quo.

I also really hated the fact that we learn about the trial because Braden watches tapes of it every day, which he definitely shouldn't be doing if he's going to be called at a witness. It honestly would have worked much better for me if he HADN'T been called as a witness and he was just going to the trial every day.

And finally, I hated the use of religion in the story. I get that it was meant to be all "small town white people use religion as an excuse to be racist and homophobic", but everything about it grated for me. It showcases the worst of organised religion and to have a protagonist who seems to be both questioning the way things are done in the church and also just going along with it all the freaking time was...yeah. No.

In short: I can see what this book was trying to do, but I didn't like what this book was trying to do. Also baseball. Snore.
Profile Image for The Candid Cover (Olivia & Lori).
1,172 reviews1,307 followers
February 21, 2020
Full Review on The Candid Cover

A gripping story that tells of one boy’s struggle to understand who he is and where he came from. Conviction is one of those books that will resonate with its audience on so many levels. Kelly Loy Gilbert has created a novel that provides readers with a relatable protagonist, deals with many issues that need to be explored and uses baseball as an amazing analogy to tie it all together.

Braden, the main character in Conviction, is a teenage boy who appears to be an all round American kid. He is well liked by everyone in his town and is the star pitcher for the town’s baseball team. There are some family secrets, however, that Braden must keep to himself and come to terms with. It is easy to understand Braden’s struggles and his character flaws make him an even more lovable character in this story. Readers will feel his pain and empathize immediately with Braden. Kelly Loy Gilbert sets the stage for what is to come by brilliantly making you fall in love with Braden.

There are an unbelievable number of social issues explored in this novel. From race relations to homosexuality, to family and faith. Braden is coming of age in Conviction and is sorting each of these issues out for himself. It is through Braden that the reader is taken on a journey of self discovery and how a teenager must deal and decide upon his/her beliefs. Braden struggles with his own political convictions while his father awaits a decision regarding his own legal conviction.

It is the method that Kelly Loy Gilbert uses in her novel, Conviction, to aid Braden on his journey of self discovery and help readers to understand that sets this book apart from others. Baseball becomes an incredible analogy throughout this story to explain life and Braden’s struggles. It is baseball and the understanding he has for how the game is played that sees him through and guides him towards an understanding.

This debut novel by Kelly Loy Gilbert is one that really gets readers to think and question themselves. It is also a story that deeply explores various social issues. It is a book that will make you explore your own beliefs.
Profile Image for Lee Kelly.
Author 4 books317 followers
April 22, 2015
I got a sneak peak at Kelly Loy Gilbert's upcoming title, and it absolutely WOWED me. Compulsively page-turning, CONVICTION is the examination of one family's dynamics in the wake of a crisis that has rocked their faith (in every sense of the word).

Gilbert's characters jump off the page -- her main character Braden has a voice that is both accessible and startlingly poignant -- and her supporting characters (particularly brother Trey and Braden's father, one of the most complicated characters I've read in a long time) are fully realized and will haunt you with their choices and their motivations long after you turn the last page.

CONVICTION is one of those rare finds: A novel that gives you a fresh fast-paced plot on the surface -- an unraveling trial, a baseball season where more is on the line than winning on the field -- while still presenting a unflinchingly honest and raw study of what it means to be human and what it means to have faith. This one is not to be missed!!
Author 4 books412 followers
July 13, 2014
CONVICTION is the kind of story that holds onto you and won't let go. The characterization is flat-out brilliant. The plot is rich with tension and conflict, and keeps you turning pages well after you should have gone to bed. And if you know anything about baseball -- or sports mentality in general -- you'll realize how perfectly accurate Kelly Loy Gilbert's descriptions are.

It's a beautifully written book that will leave your stomach in knots and your heart in your throat. It's unforgettable.

Full review to come.
Profile Image for Kim Liggett.
Author 9 books2,041 followers
February 14, 2015
Poignant, gutsy storytelling. Stunning writing. Characters that will stay with you & take up residence in your heart. I'm officially a fan of Kelly Loy Gilbert.
Profile Image for Ashley Blake.
Author 13 books4,026 followers
August 31, 2015
Oh my god oh my god this book, y'all this book. So beautiful. So...jeez. Honest. Heartbreakingly honest.
Profile Image for Jen (Pop! Goes The Reader).
109 reviews677 followers
January 13, 2017
Did you find this review helpful? Find more of my reviews at Pop! Goes The Reader!

Conviction is a haunting examination of a family in crisis after a single, gruesome event catapults three people into the spotlight and forces them to confront the secrets that have long brought them together and torn them apart. Between his mother’s abandonment, his father’s volatile temper and his older brother estrangement, sixteen-year-old Braden Raynor’s life has always been one of turmoil, dysfunction and, far too often, abuse. Nothing could prepare Braden for life’s most unexpected curveball, however, when his father, a respected evangelical radio host and a pillar of their small community, is accused of murdering a Latino police officer from a neighbouring county, a man who also happens to be the uncle of one of Braden’s biggest baseball rivals. As the sole witness to the events of that fateful, now infamous evening, Braden must grapple with mounting pressure at home, at school and on the baseball field as he prepares to testify at his father’s trial, testimony on which the outcome of the trial, and his father’s very life, will ultimately rest. In what will prove a challenging and complex choice between love, loyalty, duty and moral responsibility, Braden will be forced to question his role as a son, a brother, a Christian and a ball player, in addition to being forced to question the courage of his convictions. Using Braden as her subject, Gilbert’s conclusions about the insidious consequences and legacy of mental, emotional and physical abuse are harrowing and heartbreaking but never without hope as this phenomenally talented debut author also explores the possibility and power of second chances and alternate support systems in combating this destructive influence. Conviction reads, in part, like a taut psychological thriller as Gilbert gradually reveals sparse and poignant details from Braden’s past over the course of the narrative, leaving the precise events of the night in question, Braden’s father’s guilt, and the nature and outcome of Braden’s testimony in doubt until the novel’s breathless conclusion. Prospective readers should be aware that Conviction does contain elements of homophobia. While this makes sense within the context of the story given Braden’s religious beliefs and the rigidity of his upbringing, there were moments when this felt like an unnecessary addition to an already challenging and somber story and which might prove understandably upsetting for some readers. As a result, I couldn’t help but wish this element had been more overtly challenged within the text, or entirely omitted altogether. Despite this, however, Conviction is almost certainly a novel that is not to be missed. A meticulous, heart-wrenching meditation on family, faith, forgiveness, loyalty, and morality, Kelly Loy Gilbert’s unforgettable 2015 debut is a woefully under-appreciated powerhouse whose maturity and complexity reminds readers of the very best young adult fiction has to offer.
Profile Image for Amanda B.
765 reviews80 followers
December 28, 2015
I am blown away by this debut novel. On one hand it moves so slowly, so intimately, so very in the point of view of the main character, Braden. But despite this measured, careful pace I felt on the edge of my seat for most of the book. Like Braden I analyzed every gesture and word of the people around him--sometimes I figured something out before Braden did, other times he surprised me by later filling in backstory that revealed the subtext of what had just happened.

Most of all, I was relentlessly pulled forward wondering: what really happened the night Reyes died? And would Braden tell the truth about it or not?

Give this to teens who love whodunits, character-driven stories, and sports stories (Braden is a baseball player and this is a major subplot of the story).

I can't wait to read the next book by this amazing new talent.
Profile Image for Lori Goldstein.
Author 6 books431 followers
November 25, 2014
This book could turn me into a baseball fan. And for those who know me, they know what an incredible feat that is! This book is about a high school pitcher and it's about baseball, but it's also not about baseball. It's about a family struggling to be a family. It's about working hard for what you want in life and where that can lead you. It's about challenging what you believe and becoming the person you want to be versus who you are told to be. It's weighty stuff, yes, but it's told in a voice that makes it all go by so smoothly and effortlessly and then all of a sudden you are hit with an image and a line that takes your breath away. An amazing book from start to finish.
Profile Image for Charlotte Huang.
Author 2 books269 followers
September 28, 2014
There are books that I admire for beautiful writing or a skillfully developed, intricate plot. Then there are books that I can't put down because the characters feel so real and relatable that I get completely invested in their stories. Conviction is the rare book that manages to be both. I was lucky enough to get to read this before it came out and I can't recommend it highly enough. Conviction explores complex relationships and social dynamics without resorting to easy, neat answers. The conclusion is both well-earned and emotionally satisfying. Five enthusiastic stars!
Profile Image for Kara Babcock.
1,923 reviews1,258 followers
March 10, 2016
I got asked a lot about why I was teaching Lullabies for Little Criminals because it is such a dreary book. Why teach something that is so raw, so traumatic? Why can’t I find something more uplifting? And hey, I’m not saying I’ll never teach a fun or funny book. But I like YA that is raw, because that’s real. Growing up is hard. This is an idea we might pay lip-service to as adults, but it’s a truth the shape of which we tend to forget as we get older. I like to think this is because we’re embroiled in our own little dramas, and we tend to think that the age we’re at now has it the toughest. Plus, we look back at our younger selves, and our inexperience, and hopefully we can laugh at it—but sometimes that laughter gets projected onto other young people. It’s easy, sometimes, to forget how hard they have it.

Conviction is another real, gritty YA book along the lines of Asking For It . Louise O’Neill’s story about a young girl in a small town who is raped and then victim-blamed asks its readers to consider hard truths about the way we socialize boys and girls to think about women. Similarly, Kelly Loy Gilbert presents a powerful story about the way toxic masculinity maneuvers men and boys into corners. I took this off the library shelf at a whim—I had heard nothing about it, knew nothing about author, didn’t know what to expect from the book in terms of tone or content. I’m very happy I took that chance.

My YA reads tend to be biased towards books with female protagonists (which are targeted, at least in terms of marketing, towards young women). Partly this is selection bias from the sources I use to get my YA recommendations. It’s also somewhat intentional, because of course I didn’t grow up as a young woman in any time, so I read YA as a way to better relate to what young girls I might know are dealing with as they grow up. Nevertheless, I like a little balance, and Conviction seemed like it would do the trick. Its narrator is a sixteen-year-old boy in Ornette, Alabama. His father, noted host of a local Christian radio show, is arrested on murder charges. And Braden’s testimony might be the one thing that could spare or condemn his father. It’s a great setup, and Gilbert delivers.

Braden’s characterization is, as with most books with first-person narrators, the linchpin. Most of this story is about his relationship with his father, Martin, who is absent in the parts set in the present day, but a force to be reckoned with nonetheless. We also learn about Martin from the numerous flashbacks that Gilbert weaves into the main plot, gradually leading up to Braden’s turn on the witness stand and the reveal of what “really” happened on that foggy day. It’s clear from the start that Braden is devoted to his dad, hence why it’s so interesting to see how he reacts to the new pressures he’s under as a result of his dad’s charges.

Ornette is a small town in the American South, and as such it’s very conservative and very Christian. Braden belongs to a youth group headed up by a teacher at his school, who is also the (former?) best friend of Braden’s brother. The G word gets dropped a lot in this book. As someone who isn’t religious, this is just something I’m not used to—so I found it very fascinating. Gilbert deftly portrays Braden as a young man who believes in God but has many questions and isn’t always sure how to get guidance. Also, her portrayal of his socialized homophobia is important. If we’re going to confront homophobia in our youth, then we need to understand where it comes from—and the way children are raised by their parents and their communities is a huge factor.

Braden’s homophobia, latent throughout the beginning of the story, becomes a bigger deal later in the book. I figured out the twist long before it happened, but I don’t consider that disappointing—rather, it’s just good foreshadowing on Gilbert’s part. And the way she portrays Braden struggling with how to reconcile this news with what he has been taught all his life is powerful and feels real (I say “feels” because I haven’t lived that experience, so I can’t actually speak to that). This would hopefully be a useful story for boys (or girls) who likewise are dealing with that conflict between the values they have received from their parents and their own experiences. Gilbert’s portrayal is sympathetic to Braden without making excuses. The characters here are all people, warts and all, some of them Christian and some not, some of them sympathetic and some not. There are few stereotypes here—just a lot of uncomfortable reminders that many people really are this intolerant and how harmful this can be.

When you get right down to it, of course, Conviction is about how Braden’s dad is an absolutely terrible parent. He is self-centred, manipulative, duplicitous, bigoted, immature, and abusive. He professes a love for his sons, but he treats them more like scions. Gilbert’s approach to showing all of this is masterful. On one level, Martin’s pushing of baseball onto Braden seems just like a slightly-obsessed, passionate father trying to make sure his son does well in athletics. Combined with the other flashbacks, however, this takes on a more sinister aspect. Martin has bought into a very specific and narrow vision of masculinity and determines to impress this on his sons. Trey refuses to conform and fights back by leaving. Braden begins to fall for it. It’s not Braden’s fault, but this is how they get you—get them young and get them hooked!

Just as it was painful to read Asking for It because of how intense some of its scenes are, it’s painful in places to read Conviction. I was so sad to see what happens between Braden and Maddie and how his father manages to get between the two of them even while he’s in jail. I was sad to see the drama with Braden and Trey play out the way it does—even if it has a somewhat optimistic resolution, the fact it had to happen that way, the fact that either of them went through any of that with their father … that’s just rough. It’s not something any child should have to experience, yet it is all too common.

The title of this book sticks with me. Obviously, at first, it seems to relate to Martin’s trial, the fact that Braden has the power to sway whether or not Martin is convicted. However, there are deeper connotations. “Conviction” speaks to one’s certainty about one’s beliefs. Braden has incredible conviction for a sixteen-year-old—yet that conviction is tested here, as he wonders what the right and moral things to do are. And as the reader, you have to ask yourself whether you agree with what he does, and what you think about the result.

Conviction undersells itself, if anything. From the description I was hoping for an underwhelming, OK book about a boy who plays baseball and has a dick father. It’s so much better than that; it blew me away. It is a story high on teenage passion. Gilbert’s writing is slick and evocative. Braden’s thoughts and feelings are always front-and-centre, so you get to know and identify with him. When he acts out, especially in the form of making poor decisions on the pitcher’s mound, your heart goes out to him. This is a novel that acknowledges the hard choices teenagers face, reminds us that teenagers don’t have the tools they need to deal with those choices, and indicts the social and cultural hegemony that shames teenagers who do not conform.

Creative Commons BY-NC License
Profile Image for Richie Partington.
1,083 reviews128 followers
July 27, 2015
Richie’s Picks: CONVICTION by Kelly Loy Gilbert, Hyperion, May 2015, 352p., ISBN: 978-1-4231-9738-6

“Alex is a senior and he plays second base for La Abra, so I’ve played against him all my life. La Abra churns out good players, Latino kids who make you wonder if they’re lying about how old they are, but Alex is just mediocre and I wouldn’t think much of him if it wasn’t for this: despite his .249 average, he’s not an easy guy to strike out, and I’ve never been able to figure out why.
I’ve talked to him exactly once, when I was twelve and we were both at an umping clinic for Little League, and they had breakfast for us there and he ate his cereal with juice. I sad it was gross, and he shrugged and said maybe I was jealous. But he didn’t say it like he was defensive or like he was joking around and wanted to be friends; he said it like what I’d said just didn’t affect him at all. To be nice, I said, ‘I’m Braden,’ and he said, ‘I know who you are.’ Then he said, ‘You’re a good pitcher,’ only he said it matter-of-factly, not as a compliment, and I didn’t know what to make of that.
I read the stats with his name four times over until the words start to lose their meanings. Then I shut the computer, fast.
It’s twelve more weeks until we play La Abra. I hope that’s enough time to figure out how I’m supposed to get up on a mound and face the nephew of the cop my dad’s accused of killing.”

CONVICTION is a powerful and sometimes horrific teen tale. Braden Raynor is the star pitcher at a high school in California’s Central Valley. Last year, as a junior, he threw a perfect game as his school won the state championship. If Braden can stay healthy and focused, he has the talent to go pro after high school or college.

Given Braden’s father, that’s a big if.

Braden’s birth resulted from his father’s one-night stand with a barely-legal young woman. His father is now a well-known religious radio broadcaster. But at the time of his parents’ liaison, his father was “a ruined ex-minor leaguer who drank too much and had a custodian job at the radio station.” He was already single-parenting one son, Trey, who couldn’t stand his father for reasons that we will come to understand.

When Braden was four months old, his mother took him to his father’s door. She told the unknowing father that Braden was his, left the baby there, and moved to L.A., hoping to become a dancer.

Baby Braden’s arrival in the household was responsible for a temporary truce between half-brother Trey--twelve years older than Braden--and their volatile father. Now, eighteen years later, Trey has been long estranged from their father and long gone from California. But with their father incarcerated and awaiting trial on charges of deliberately driving over a police officer during a traffic stop, Braden is parentless. To protect Braden from being consigned to a group home, Trey has temporarily returned to stay with Braden in the house from which he long ago escaped.

There’s suspense in the story that kept me turning the pages: Braden was with his father on that evening when the fatal incident occurred, and I anxiously waited to hear the young man’s perspective on what really happened. Day by day, Braden works his way through the team’s baseball season and toward the day that he will have to testify at his father’s trial.

Braden’s version of Christianity, influenced by his father, by one of Trey’s childhood friends, and by the local religious community, is a big factor in the story. On one hand, the community provides admirable support for Braden during this nightmare of a senior year. On the other hand, many of the beliefs and prejudices of Braden, his father, some of his baseball teammates, and his religious community remind me why there is so much discord in America over social and political issues.

The excitement and vivid details of Braden’s pitching make CONVICTION a first-rate sports story. The darkness of the parent-child relationships and the theme of a young person trying to find balance between family ties and his own way in life make it a powerful contemporary YA read. I’m sure glad I read it.

Richie Partington, MLIS
Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.pbworks.com
Moderator http://groups.yahoo.com/group/middle_...
1,852 reviews
September 28, 2015
This book was a home run! Gilbert is a young writer to keep our eyes on future publications. She is a very talented, sensitive writer building emotions in the protagonist and reader. Heartfelt and raw prose with sad, damaged souls and outcomes. No one is a winner in this game of life, family, parenthood, and truth.
Set in the Central Valley of Northern California, Braden Raynor is sixteen and a baseball pitcher prodigy. He pitched a perfect game. His father, Mart, is a former pitcher and Braden's coach. Braden is being groomed for the major leagues. His half brother, Trey, is twenty-eight, a chef, and owns his own restaurant in New York.
Mart is an angry man. Mart is a man of faith. His father committed suicide when Mart was a boy. Mart has become a radio talk show host somewhat spewing controversial venom like Rush Limbaugh. Braden's mother, Aureliana Stoddard-Huff abandons Braden when he is an infant. She drops him off for Mart as she is twenty and wants nothing to do with this child conceived in a one night stand. Mart's high expectations, overcharged testosterone, and militaristic mindset cloud his vision of how Braden and Trey should live their lives and meet his expectations of them.
Braden is a young man confident in his athletic abilities. He relies on his faith to guide him in life. He lives on eggshells and thin glass dealing with his father's emotional outbursts and punishments. Braden is heartbroken Trey walked out on them eight years ago when he and Mart had a volatile fight. Braden has missed his big brother. My heart broke for Braden and the emotionally charged world he lives in.
Something goes terribly wrong one February 9 night. Mart goes to jail and is on trial. Braden is asked to testify on his father's behalf. The last third of the book writing about the trial, Braden's anxiety over the truth, and learning key events that shaped Mart, Braden and Trey were palpable. Very well done and believable. Tragic choices and consequences.
So easy to conceive children. So hard to truly love, care for and nurture them. Broken birds. Like the ortolan birds Trey secures on the black market. They are nurtured and fed a fatty diet, then they are cooked whole and the entire bird is eaten in several bites. Considered a gastronomic experience and now banned in France since the 1990's, the diner wears a napkin over their head to capture the aroma of the dish and to hide their shame of the experience. The symbolism of parents devouring the souls and spirits of their children to make them into something they may not or cannot become was powerful. Braden released the birds before they could be consumed. Braden and Trey weren't as fortunate with Mart nor Braden with Aureliana.


"To consume an ortolan is an act of spiritual pilgrimage. Place a napkin over your head to hide your cruelty from God, and eat the whole ortolan at once. The rich fat on your tongue is God, the bitterness of the organs the suffering of Christ, and as you chew the bones, your own blood mixing salt with fat and flesh is the Trinity: the separate exist as one. This is the holiness of the divine Trinity, dwelling in mystery with us. Through thus act of worship, God is made known."
Profile Image for Sarah.
Author 27 books47 followers
May 1, 2015
This was one of my absolute favorite books that I read last year. It's a devastating and brutally honest story that explores the meaning of faith and family. I couldn't get it out of my head long after I read it: it made me cry, it enraged me, and it left me hopeful. The story features religious elements and baseball which I wasn't too sure about since I don't respond well to either. But the writer weaves both into the story so beautifully and brilliantly that I don't see how the story could work any other way. "Conviction" is an absolutely important and necessary book for teen and adult readers alike.

Sixteen-year-old Braden is the star pitcher in his small town and believes there’s magic in baseball. Ten years ago, Braden received a sign from God that everything would be okay. Now it all seems like a lie. His father, who hosts his own evangelical radio show, has been arrested for a hit-and-run accident that killed a police officer. His estranged brother, Trey, reluctantly moves back home to take care of Braden while their father awaits trial. Braden is the key witness and the pressure of holding his father’s fate in his hands is too much to bear. Braden’s entire world is rooted with his father but there is a monster lurking underneath that tough love exterior. Slowly the story unveils what happened that tragic night but it’s Braden’s heartbreaking journey that will resonate with the reader.
631 reviews
September 26, 2015
The worst thing about this book is the cover. It is not at all inviting and really doesn't indicate much about the contents.
The main character, Braden, is close to his father, who is a manipulative former baseball player,a radio preacher, and a very conservative Christian. The two share a fascination for baseball and a lot of the baseball action relates to the thoughts and situations. Braden's father is arrested for murder and Braden is the only living witness. Will he tell the truth or save his father? There's a lot for him to contend with, especially his older brother, estranged from their father and living in New York. Trey comes home to take custody of Braden, but they are not comfortable with each other. There are a number of other characters who add complexity to the story. Once you get into it, it's hard to put down, and once you finish it, it's hard to forget. It raises questions about religion, parenting, and mental health. Tough to read but worth it.
I just don't picture adolescents picking it up!
Profile Image for Bec Bec.
2 reviews3 followers
March 25, 2016
So, I usually don't write any kind of review because I'm not very good at it. But I was so against this book for the first half that I think it deserves one.
I really felt like the first and second half were two completely different books. The beginning moved so slowly and was so focused on religion and baseball that I almost put the book down and moved on but, I am so glad I didn't. The remainder of the book was focused on the trial and how it was impacting Braden and his brother, Trey. There were, also, so many layers to all of the relationships and all of the characters had so much going on. You learn so much about everyone in the last 150 pages and it's really hard to put down at the end. The back story was so boring and long but, the rest of the book was incredible and I'm really glad I finished it! I highly recommend this book if you can manage to get through the first half.
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