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Rapture Practice: A True Story About Growing Up Gay in an Evangelical Family

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  3,135 ratings  ·  484 reviews
What happens when the person you’re becoming isn’t the one your family wants you to be?

When Aaron Hartzler was little, he couldn’t wait for the The Rapture: that moment when Jesus would come down from the clouds to whisk him and his family up to heaven. But as he turns sixteen, Aaron grows more curious about all the things his family forsakes for the Lord. He begins to re
Paperback, 416 pages
Published May 27th 2014 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
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Average rating 3.93  · 
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 ·  3,135 ratings  ·  484 reviews

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Kat Kennedy
Yeah I just don't want to finish this because I legit can't deal with Aaron's parents. ...more
Jeff Erno
As a former born-again Baptist who attended a Christian parochial school and Bible college, and as a gay man who started to figure out while in my teens that in spite of all I'd been taught to believe, I am homosexual, this story really resonated with me. The details contained within this story probably would be shocking to most readers. The attitudes and platitudes and unbelievable stupidity and prejudice that spews from the mouths of those who truly believe would seem absurd to most readers. T ...more
Jun 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
1. First things first. I'm a Christian. I believe that to get to Heaven you must be saved. And I believe that marriage is intended for one man and one woman. That being said, I loved this book and if I could rate it higher than a 5, I would. I thought about this book all day when I wasn't reading it and then at night I stayed up way past my bedtime to finish it.
2. Whether you have the same beliefs as Aaron or his parents or are a Christian and aren't as strict as Aaron's parents, this book will
Japhy Grant
Jan 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Aaron Hartzler's true-life story set in the buckle of the Bible Belt is both a revealing portrait of Evangelical life in America and a hilarious coming-of-age story that readers young and old will find much to relate to. The son of a preacher who's family life consists of singing the praises of Jesus each Sunday and making cakes that use Ding-Dong's to represent the stone that was rolled away from the Savior's tomb, Aaron finds himself torn between his desire to make his parents happy and the gr ...more
Jan 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was blown away by this memoir. There is humor and heart and pain and moments where I noticed that my jaw had actually, literally dropped. Without giving anything away, I will say that there is a spanking scene in the later part of the book that left me absolutely stunned.

What I loved about this debut is that it is beautifully rendered from the standpoint of character creation. Aaron is extraordinarily generous to his characters, which is something that pleased me. Very often in books written
Apr 16, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic memoir about growing up in a conservative Christian household when you don't prescribe to all of the beliefs your family does. It's funny, and it's so respectful and thoughtful about the way faith plays into people's lives.

That last chapter is magnificent. Just an all-around satisfying read. What a GREAT example of how a teen memoir can work.
Irina Elena
This picked me right up and out of my ten-day book slump - no easy feat.

This is the second memoir I've read in 2014 - here's the one New Year's resolution I'm managing to keep so far - and only the fifth in my entire life, but that's not the reason why I feel like I've really stepped out of my comfort zone by reading it.
I'm an agnostic atheist, and I swear I try so very hard to be open-minded, respectful and accepting, but I just get very antsy when I read about religion, because it makes me fee
Mary Christensen
Jan 06, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For those of us who lived it, this book is painfully familiar. It's the story of childhood warped by religion, of political conservatism, bigotry, and bullying taught to children under pseudonyms like "love," "praise," and "forgiveness."

The scenes of the author's childhood are spot-on. My blood boiled with his simple, clear stories about the unfairness of totalitarian parents and unethical religious recruiting.

Unfortunately, the last third of the book makes compromises. The author works too ha
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I don't have children myself, but I imagine that one of the many things that parents feel a general sense of terror about is "what if my child doesn't share my values?" I mean, here they've given birth to them (or possibly adopted them) and raised them with all the values and supports of the life they have built for themselves and what if, despite all that nurturing and good examples and shared DNA, their child turns and heads down a different path, perhaps one they
Jenni Frencham
Aaron details his life in a fundamentalist Christian family, including attending a private Christian school, participating in neighborhood Good News club, and eventually questioning everything he's been taught.

I really enjoyed the first 3/4 of this book. I started reading it on my break at work and picked it up again as soon as I got home. The stories Aaron tells are so similar to what I experienced that I was interested to see how he escaped and how his family reacted.

But when Aaron gets in tro
Jul 01, 2014 rated it it was ok
The memoir of growing up in a strict Baptist household. Hartzler conveys the terror of Hell and breaking the rules that his parents/church/school/camp taught, but he also gives us scenes of joy and family togetherness. It's a more nuanced description than I think most people would be able to give.

I didn't love this--there isn't much of a driving force to this book, and Hartzler isn't much of a writer. But he describes his changing mindset and the evangelical context well.
This book is a revelation for me. I mean, I saw myself in these pages, I relived parts of my own childhood between these lines. So much of it was familiar to me to such a high degree that I would cringe, or smile, as the memories rose up all around me. I couldn't help but compare my life to Aaron's, my family to his, because I can't escape the feeling that I've lived this life. Not exactly, sure, but he gave words to emotions and experiences I don't know if I could have ever described. And the i ...more
I am definitely the wrong audience for this book, but I still liked it. I liked what Hartzler did with it, and I liked how he pitched it directly to his audience; there are passages that read to me like a whistle only his target audience can hear. And, let me repeat, that target audience does not include me. I think the ideal reader for this book is a teenager from a very Christian family, someone who is struggling with faith and family that feels like a straitjacket.

Since I am actually a middl
Mar 08, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: best-memoirs
"We may disagree about where the truth lies,but somewhere in the midst of the questions, if we fight for each other instead of against each other, our love will bring us here to a quiet place of transcendent beauty, to a simple moment of elegance-a moment I now understand has a name: Grace. I can't find the words to share this with my dad. I'm not sure how to tell him to all these things inside my heart. I don't know if he'll ever understand them the way I do."

This quote is more like a memoir of
Beth Derr
Aug 11, 2020 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 06, 2014 rated it liked it
There's no question that this tale is a compelling one. A young man grows up in a devoutly religious home and as he reaches his teenage years he begins to grapple with his understanding of the world and what is right for his soul. Not to mention the slow discovery of truth about his sexuality. There were so many good/difficult moments in the book - many of which were very close to home, for me.

However, it tended to run on, a bit, which caused me to "like" the book, but not love it. My random gue
Sep 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
First of all, this book is about Aaron's life growing up in an evangelical family - it is not about his being gay. I think that the part about being gay - which the author is - was added to the title in order to sell books. However, the book is mainly about the author's childhood and teen years in a repressive (which for Evangelicals would be considered normal) Evangelical family. Aaron was not allowed to watch tv or drink or listen to popular music or go to movies or do anything that might not ...more
Bonnie G.
A lovely YA memoir about growing up fundamentalist and coming to doubt while still loving your family and friends. Hartzler is Gay, and I am sure that fact was a part of what led him to question, but this is not a coming out story. It is both broader and more unique than that. Hartzler is charming and funny, and this reads like a chat with a friend who is a fine raconteur. The prose is not elegant, but it's an enjoyable read. ...more
Tim Federle
Oct 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Adored an advanced copy of this book. Turned nearly everything I thought I knew (and had decided) about organized religion upside down and back again. Written in the very best tradition of "truth is stranger than fiction," RAPTURE PRACTICE make you look at family and faith with new, sometimes watery, eyes. ...more
Louise Rozett
Apr 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really loved this book. This is a YA memoir about a boy growing up in a deeply religious household, who struggles to find his own identity and connection to faith as he begins to realize that he does not believe everything his beloved parents believe. It is entertaining, funny, powerful, infuriating and moving all at once. I'm ready for the sequel, Aaron Hartzler! ...more
Apr 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Aaron Hartzler grew up in an extremely conservative Christian family that did not have a tv, go to movies or listen to music. Even contemporary Christian rock because "you can't mix God's words with the Devil's beat." However, as he gets older he begins to question these beliefs. He begins to love rock music because it makes him feel happy and he can't understand how that can be a sin. Aaron participates in church services, teaches Good News children's group, acts in his Christian private school ...more
This was something of a ride, and not in an emotional sense. I have never seen a more jumbled collection of chapters with little to no transition packed together and called a book. Each chapter would end in a sort of cliff hanger and then the next one would start months, or even years from the event that was discussed in the last leaving it feeling disjointed and a tad confusing. However, despite the terrible formatting the story itself was very compelling and more than a little relatable for an ...more
Mar 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-book
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Rapture Practice is a YA memoir about the author's struggles as a teenager to find his place in his conservative religious family.

This is an absolutely stunning book. Every page is so vivid and realistic, it's almost like the author actually had his teenaged self write this book. Even though I am not white, male, Christian, or gay, (and let's face it, I'm definitely not a teenager anymore) I found this book so heartfelt, engaging, and most of all relatable. I have no idea how th
Sep 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
To be completely honest, I may buy 100 copies of this book and hand them out on the street. Everyone needs to read Rapture Practice because no matter what you believe or who are are, this book will speak to you on a level that I can't even fathom.
I'm going to purchase my own copy as soon as possible, and I've already suggested it to my aunt. This book is so special; it is unlike anything else. It truly deserves 10 stars, 50, 100; all the stars in space is what this book deserves. I have never re
Donna Gephart
Dec 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
Aaron Hartzler created an exceptional memoir. He wrote with a child's innocence, honesty, depth of feelings and questions. I felt like I was transported into Hartzler's childhood living room/kitchen/church/high school. I learned about a way of life I had not been personally familiar with. The insight and understanding was invaluable. I was impressed by the author's enduring love for his parents, even though they couldn't find a way to accept him. This is more than a memoir about growing up gay i ...more
Martha Stickle
Jan 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
If you grew up dividing Amy Grant's music into before and after the fall or attending Bible camp in the summer or listening to James Dobson, you'll appreciate Rapture Practice. So much of Aaron Hartzler's experience growing up was like my own. It felt warm. It felt like family.

It also felt like there should have been a trigger warning on the cover. The questions he voices are ones that rocked me, too, from a theological standpoint. The powerless he feels probably resonates for anyone who can rem
Laura McNeal
Sep 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
The most piercing line in Aaron Hartzler's harrowing and funny memoir comes at the beginning of chapter one: "I am four years old, and Dad is teaching me to play dead." This is a lesson that Hartzler's dad, a Bible college teacher, will unconsciously reinforce for years and years with nearly disastrous consequences because the only way that a conscientious child can respond to rules that go against his nature is to break them and play dead. I recommend this extraordinarily compassionate book to ...more
Feb 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
I am not quite sure why the relationship that other people have with religion fascinates me so much – but I am positive that Hartlzer’s memoir, Rapture Practice: A True Story About Growing Up Gay In An Evangelical Family delivered exactly what I wanted! Read the rest of my review here ...more
Nyrae Dawn
Mar 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I fell in love with this memoir. It was written with heart and humor. I felt like I lived all Aaron's experiences in this book. His story was told in such an honest way that I don't experience often. I highly recommend this book. ...more
Leigh Collazo

Hundreds more reviews like this one at Mrs. ReaderPants.

REVIEW: Memoir is my new favorite genre. Memoirs give us stories with characters, plot, and dialogue, but the twist is that the characters are real people. We could go to a book signing or author event and actually meet them if we wanted to. And the events in memoirs, though dialogue and events may not play out exactly as they happened, really occurred. Memoirs give us a front row view into someone else's real life and emotions. Memoir writ
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Aaron Hartzler is the author of Rapture Practice (Little, Brown), a memoir about getting kicked out of his Christian high school two weeks before graduation. The New York Times called Rapture Practice "effervescent and moving, evocative and tender." It was also named one of Kirkus Reviews and Amazon's Best Books of 2013, and was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. His second book, a novel ca ...more

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46 likes · 2 comments
“I mean, why would a God create all of us and put us here if we were supposed to go around feeling bad about ourselves and pretending to be somebody we're not? How is hiding who you are telling the truth?” 7 likes
“In a flash, the version of myself so carefully constructed for Mom’s and Dad’s eyes crumbles all around me. I have let them see my truth. Not the son I pretend to be, or the son they thought I was, but the son I really am.” 1 likes
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