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There Goes Sunday School #1

There Goes Sunday School

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In sixteen-year-old Mike Hernandez’s life, only one thing is clear: Gay is NOT okay. His family’s life revolves around the church, a church run by the vocally intolerant Pastor Myers, so Mike has resolved to spend his life in the closet. His only escape—besides the occasional, anonymous gay make-out session—is his art. He pours his complicated emotions into risqué drawings he keeps in a secret sketchbook. A sketchbook he carries everywhere.

When his sketchbook goes missing in the middle of Sunday school, Mike is sure his life is over. He’s going to be outed, ostracized by their community, condemned by the pastor, maybe even homeless. What’s worse, the pastor’s son, Chris, suddenly seems hell-bent on adopting Mike and his friends and he has no idea why.

When an awkward confrontation with Chris leads to an unexpected kiss instead of a much-expected punch, Mike’s world is turned upside down. As their friendship grows and faith is questioned, Mike may be forced to choose between the comfortable life he's always lived and a chance at the love he never thought he deserved.

392 pages, Kindle Edition

First published June 4, 2018

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About the author

Alexander C. Eberhart

6 books171 followers
ALEXANDER grew up in the Metro Atlanta Area his entire life, moving from suburb to suburb, just on the outskirts of the city. He’s always had a passion for writing, even from a young age. He still lives on the cusp of Atlanta, inching his way ever closer to finally becoming the City Dweller he’s always wanted to be.

In the meantime, he spends his days writing stories with queer characters and drinking an unfathomable amount of coffee. When he isn’t crafting quality queer fiction, you can find Alexander most likely curled up alongside his husband, watching a movie or another equally lazy task.

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5 stars
468 (40%)
4 stars
430 (37%)
3 stars
195 (16%)
2 stars
52 (4%)
1 star
13 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 157 reviews
Profile Image for jazmin.
305 reviews77 followers
October 10, 2018
I did really like this book but I'm not a fan of the ending at all ugh
Profile Image for Alexander Eberhart.
Author 6 books171 followers
October 2, 2019
Made you click. ;)
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Ulysses Dietz.
Author 15 books622 followers
August 14, 2018
There Goes Sunday School
By Alexander C. Eberhart
Seven Sisters Publishing, 2018
Five stars

“The flowers are in bright contrast to the dark background.”

This line brought tears to my eyes when I read it, and to understand why, you need to read this beautiful novel about a teen boy’s coming out in a conservative Christian community in today’s America. By the time I got to this line, which could seem to be a random bit of description of a hipster coffee shop in Atlanta, Alexander Eberhart’s careful, deft writing had captured me, heart and soul. This is a book where I laughed out loud—when my eyes weren’t burning. There are no accidents here, and Eberhart’s sure hand keeps the narrative moving forward quickly, even as he hooks you with carefully placed lines that draw you back to the unsolvable dilemma that Michael Hernandez faces in his life.

Michael is a half-Mexican sixteen-year-old, the middle child of an affluent family in the outer suburbs of Atlanta’s sprawl. It is clear he is much loved, and his relationship with his parents is warm; but Michael feels his parents’ love is conditional, based on their continued ignorance of his gayness.

As in all YA stories, Mike has two sassy best friends, Jackie and Tanner, who attend both his conservative Christian church and the expensive private Christian academy where they are classmates. Jackie and Tanner are rebels, but they’re also straight, so they can afford to be. Mike loves them, but assumes that they, too, love him back only so far as they are ignorant of who he truly is.

Then Chris Myers enters the scene. The son of Mike’s fire-and-brimstone pastor, he surprises everybody who assumes that the Pastor’s Kid is automatically endowed with a bulletproof faith. As Mike finds himself drawn to this smart, funny, troubled boy, he finds his own carefully-built chamber of secrets threatened. He has no faith in the love of those around him for his gay self.

“There are no happy endings for me, not with Chris, not with anyone. Abominations don’t get those, do they?”

This is not a short book, but it kept me on the edge of my seat throughout. The greatest surprise of all is that, in the end, it is Christian love that wins out. Eberhart has given us a book where modern Conservative Christianity’s mistakes are not used as a means to dismiss its fundamental truth: God is love. Eberhart achieves something important and necessary in this book, and he does it with literary flare and emotional maturity.
Profile Image for Emma.
134 reviews3 followers
February 10, 2020
Pffffffff. Where to start.

The language
It felt like the author tried too hard to relate. Parents were never parents, but rather "parental units" or "parental situations". The characters talked in expressions like they were 50 year-olds.

"I guess that happens when you catch the feels" - SERIOUSLY?!

Also I found the use of language weirdly harsh at times, and even a bit homophobic (Mike yelling "yes, I'm a fag!" at the counselor, or Jackie exclaiming "she's a carpet muncher" in regards to a girl getting expelled because of her sexuality).

The side characters
The author did not do a very good job at getting the nature of some of the side characters across. Mike would first complain or negatively describe someone and then continue to call them "the best/sweetest person in the world". I liked Jackie's no-nonsense attitude, but her crude comments and constant emphasis on her smoking made her feel like some cool chick character from an 80's movie, rather than an actual person. I felt Tanner was just an instrument to drive the plot forward, we never actually get to know anything about him even though he is supposedly one of Mike's best friends and they hang out all the time. The first time we hear anything about their other friends is when Mike and Chris go to Jackie's birthday party, past the book's half way mark! In the end, some of these people are vital to the plot, so why aren't they included from the start?

To be honest, I found Mike soooooo unlikable. His "cool" persona bothered me so much. He was so completely full of self-pity, selfish and extremely whiny. His prayers to the "Big Guy" felt staged, more like a screenplay than something someone in a personal crisis would say. And oh god, his artistry. I get that 16 year-olds tend to be a bit self-centered but boy, is this guy full of himself.

The ending
No, I don't need a happily ever after, and no, them being together forever and ever is probably not realistic. However, if you are going to steer the whole book towards a certain pairing, and then back out in the last freakin' chapter, you are bound to disappoint your readers. And we don't care about the swimming barista, and Mike commenting on how cute he was while things were developing with Chris made me dislike Mike even more. Like dude, do you care or not?

I considered quitting a few times but finally got into the book after a while. As soon as things started to develop with Chris and the story started rolling a bit more (and Mike stopped complaining all the time) I managed to finish the rest of the book in one go, and no, it was not all bad. The theme of this book is important and I think a lot readers will feel supported, knowing that they are not the only one struggling with this. Personally though, there was too much bothering me to really enjoy this book.
Profile Image for Carra.
1,678 reviews25 followers
June 14, 2018
While I don’t read a lot of young adult stories, every now and then one will come along with a blurb enticing enough to pique my interest. That was the case with There Goes Sunday School—something I was surprised by since I tend to keep away from books where religion plays a significant part. But the premise of this story, and the thought that with the pastor’s son involved someone might get their due, I didn’t want to pass this one up.

If you like books that really show the conflict and confusion of characters who are exploring their sexuality, you’ve definitely found the right book. The author does a fantastic job at showing Mike’s struggle with what he’s be taught to believe, and what he feels in his heart and head. It came across as a realistic portrayal of what teens go through, with Mike’s internal battle and his legitimate worries about his family, friends and church. I was even more intrigued by the views Chris had (considering his current thoughts on the subject of religion align closely with my own).

I liked Mike’s closest friends well enough, though I was not a fan of the overly casual drug use among them. I was also a fan of Mike’s sister and how supportive she was, as well as Chris’s mother.

This was a great coming of age story, an exploration of one’s sexuality, and falling for someone for the first time. It was a 4.5-star read for me, and I’d definitely recommend it. While it is classified as young adult, I’d caution that with some sexual content, profanity, and the drug use that this should be for ages 16+, and I’d consider it more of a mature young adult story. And while I might have been personally disappointed at part of the ending, it really is an accurate representation of how things go with those first loves.
Profile Image for ash.
406 reviews13 followers
January 26, 2019
This was a charming enough read with fun, if not particularly complex characters. I think this is probably a book written for the kids and young adults who really need it -- ones who are dealing with similar religious and sexuality conflict -- and is maybe just a little too heavy-handed for the ones that don't. I never had any of that conflict (I mean never, none, absolutely zero) so while I understood and empathized with Mike and Chris' pain and anxiety, it didn't resonate the way I think Eberhart really wants it to. This has a pretty emotionally satisfying resolution with a... sort of weird climax that I wasn't expecting, and a hopeful ending, but the writing was a little bland and juvenile for my tastes and I got so tired of Mike nervous-stuttering that I developed a reflexive eye roll, but no read is a waste! Also I know that this book is going to bring some real comfort to readers who need it and that always makes me really happy.
Profile Image for Michael.
644 reviews
December 30, 2018
A solid coming out story set in the south which is really a testament to the strengths and failings of family and friendship. Mike and Chris are unlikely to find happiness in their very religious families and in the Christian school they go to, but they won’t let that stop them, will they?

It is well written, with great characters people can relate to and care about. I wanted to see novels written about Jackie and Tanner, the best friends, and of Davy the swimmer/barista.

This takes a potentially unrealistic turn near the end with Chris’ dad, showing us extreme homophobia in one of its forms, but it serves as a plot point and we get it. It might have been out of left field in that there were no other scenes like that in the book to make it a realistic choice.

I like how it wraps up for us. It’s a nice read about finding yourself and sticking to it despite obstacles and tragedy. It’s about finding love in friends, chosen family, and making peace with your bio family.
Profile Image for Bob.
351 reviews10 followers
April 28, 2021
This is a true but tragic depiction of how gay kids, even today, face bigotry and hatred, especially from the so-called ‘Christian’ community for being who they are and who they love, and how it affects their mental well-being. In the story, Mike sums up the Christian hypocrisy in his face-off with his Christian school principal when he says, “I’m referring to the very same book that condemns homosexuality in the Bible. They go on to say a whole lot of things are ‘abominations’ including, eating shellfish, wearing jewelry, cutting your hair, getting a tattoo, and harvesting honey. Why is this the one thing different?”

So, great story, great writing!

If anyone is interested in reading more ‘gay .vs religion’ stories, I highly recommend Mason Dodd’s two powerful interconnected books, “Aaron’s Story” and “Braden’s Story”. (Read them in that order.)
Profile Image for Ishaan.
5 reviews1 follower
June 26, 2019
Though the ending was not exactly ideal nor expected, it was nonetheless an artfully crafted example of Eberhart’s genius when it comes to evoking the most feeling from the reader. The narration is hilarious and relatable while also tackling huge questions and problems about acceptance and religion and the way the two ideas of sexuality and faith are viewed dangerously when put together. It was an excellent book that perused these issues with an element of care and humor that is unique to this author, and as such, is a must read for anyone.

Anyone who has loved this book as much as myself will also find Eberhart’s Lock and West to be a phenomenal must read as well.
Profile Image for Pablito.
534 reviews14 followers
January 21, 2019
Compelling! The characters are breathing and, while sometimes annoying (Mike I wanted to strangle in more than a few chapters), redeemable. I finished this is one day and savored each time I returned to it (between football games in playoff season, no less).

The heart of this book is in the right place without it being homilistic. The lessons it teaches flow naturally from the narrative; nothing feels tagged on or plugged in. It deserves the attention it has received. And I want to read more of Alexander Eberhart.
January 10, 2022
These characters seem to have mastered the act of spontaneity and love to throw tantrums out of nowhere. Running out of cars at stop signs, smashing up dashboards until their hands bleed, throwing punches/slaps left, right and centre…

I understand it��s a very stressful and scary situation, especially since they feel like they have no control over it, but that doesn’t stop their reactions from catching me off guard every time. One minute it’s cute, the next minute it’s like Apocalypse Now. Just absolute chaos. Time to clear all surfaces and hide the expensive china.
Profile Image for Aiyana.
481 reviews
January 22, 2019
A touching -- and somewhat heart-rending -- story about a closeted gay teen and his struggles to survive in a deeply homophobic religious environment. When the startling possibility of love makes its way into his life, his carefully constructed disguise begins to crumble, and he realizes that he can't remain in the closet forever. The protagonist's confusion and fear are all too believable, but so too is his growth as a character, and the story is ultimately one of hope.
Profile Image for Laura  Hernandez.
789 reviews82 followers
June 11, 2018
This read about coming to terms with one's sexuality had me laughing at times and crying at others and boy did I cry!!! The author's writing style had me relating to the storyline and the beautiful characters as the struggles were realistic.

{I requested a copy for reviewing purposes and made no guarantee of a favorable review. The opinions expressed herein are unbiased and my own.}
Profile Image for  Celine.
5 reviews
August 4, 2021

I LOVE THIS STORY. I LOVE IT. I LOVE IT! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA. I CAN'T. But srsly tho why don't my boys ever end up together? that's been happening a lot to me lately. This ended in true What If It's Us fashion and I'm both heartbroken and happy but also a bit pissed. Sigh. I guess it's that hard to maintain a long distance relationship? I guess some people just aren't meant to stay with us till the end? I don't know. What I do know tho is that this book was truly entertaining and engaging. This came to me in the middle of my own sexual identity crisis and I can relate to some of Mike's musings. Also the way he talks to God is hilarious. I just really wish I can move on from relationships as fast as the characters in these books do, that's all.

Profile Image for Francesca.
590 reviews2 followers
June 9, 2019
Powerful coming of age story set in Georgia in the context of some ridiculously oppressive "church". Nicely written I think this book went a long way in faithfully portraying the struggle of young LGBTQ people in usian society burdened not only by (perceived and non) parental expectations but also by yet another made up usian "church".
I believe this is an important book and I do hope it makes its way into the hands of as many young people as possible. My issue, and I mean it is all me - nothing to do with the book: I loathe religion in all its forms; I am agnostic on a good day and atheist the rest of the time - doesn't matter which religion it's all a feckin lie wrought to control people but most of all I really, really, really dislike the usian "churches" with their shit pastors and their random interpretation of religion and their cult like indoctrination. When they are as prominent in the story as they are in this book I always feel taken out of the story and start raging about the absurdity of these "religious" nutjobs. It breaks my heart especially for the young people to see the level of manipulation and oppression they place on their own society. It enrages me that they rally against an imaginary sharia takeover when they have already gone above and beyond the oppressive state of most dictatorship. To cause such anxiety and self doubt in young people is just not right.

All in all this is a good book, one which I wish all usian youths who find themselves in similar situations would find and take solace from. It sounds authentic in a way that only own voices can make a story but I get too mad at the religion aspect and I want to punch a priest or something and that takes away from my full enjoyment of the novel(s) with this theme. That said, my kid will read this and I encourage all to read it and get it for all of the young people in your lives too.
3 reviews1 follower
June 30, 2020
i refuse to rate this bc i don’t think it’s fair to give a book one star due to the epilogue making me want to throw myself off of a bridge
Profile Image for charlotte,.
3,122 reviews817 followers
September 22, 2021
this was. chaos. having read two of this guy's books, i feel i can say he tends towards the melodrama-type angst more than i like (even though i apparently enjoyed the other of his i read? i don't remember it well though).

Rep: biracial Mexican American gay mc, gay li, lesbian side character

CWs: religious homophobia, homophobic slurs, internalised homophobia, attempted murder, car crash
Profile Image for Henry Garcia.
40 reviews5 followers
May 15, 2021
Love this book!
Love Alexander C. Eberhart’s writing!
Ready for the sequel!❤️
Profile Image for J.R. Ross.
24 reviews1 follower
May 10, 2022
I'm terrible with writing reviews. All I can say is this was a really good book. Looking forward to reading the next in the 2 book series.
Profile Image for NeverTooManyBooks.
29 reviews8 followers
July 12, 2018
I should have hated this book.

I've been known to lament long and loud about books that drag you through all the angst and drama, then fail to reward you with an appropriately solid HEA. And There Goes Sunday School's ending would best be described as hopeful, rather than happily ever after.

And, if the name didn't make it clear, it's about growing up gay in a conservative religious home and community, and my previous experiences in this particular reading sphere have left me wary of dull, heavy handed and often depressive novels that are about as subtle as a brick, generally don't speak to me, and aren't my cup of tea.

But this book....this book. I loved EVERY SINGLE THING about this book.

The writing throughout was superb. It could easily have been a sympathetic tear-jerker of a novel, but instead of travelling alongside Mike and feeling *for* him, we travelled *with* him on his journey.

And yes, to be a bit harsh, the teenage characters were at times ineloquent, short-sighted and melodramatic whingers, but frankly this was part of what made this novel full of win. They felt REAL. In a way you rarely find in Book Teens™.

I even loved the non-HEA ending.

In fact, my one and only complaint was a few instances of said teens having those awesome snarky comebacks immediately to hand, in the way you often find in Book Teens™ but much less often in real teens. But it was well tempered with dozens more instances that resonated perfectly.

This is the kind of book that makes you want to be able to give six stars out of five. Go forth and read, my friends, this one will treat you well.

Additional goodness:
If you do enjoy it (and are of an age to be reading on-page sex), try Collide by J.R. Lenk. It's like the slightly grittier, slightly more grown-up relative of this book. It’s similar in tone, minus the religious aspect, and another six star read I adored.

Happy reading!
Profile Image for Marieke (mariekes_mesmerizing_books).
466 reviews276 followers
April 20, 2020
This book has so much to offer. It’s funny and heartbreaking while it deals with coming out in a world that you can’t imagine nowadays. Believing being gay is a sin, WTF? I’m Dutch and even in the Netherlands (for a long time believed to be one of the most gay friendly countries in the world) a number of people still condemn people who are not straight.

By the way, am I the only one who sees references to ‘Call me by your name’ about being gay? ‘Are you saying what I think you’re saying?’, ‘... that kind of thing’.
Profile Image for Kaye.
108 reviews1 follower
April 17, 2019
You know it’s a good book when you got the feels after finishing it.

I loved this book and I inhaled it like the golden girls eats cheesecake.


I have to point this out:
As much as I was hoping that they would end up together I’m glad it turned out the way it did. I mean they are 16 and they have a whole life ahead of them, and I’m just glad the author made it more REAL. Than just “and they lived happily ever after”.
Profile Image for Fullmetalfisting.
47 reviews3 followers
April 12, 2021
Something went deeply wrong during the editing process by which I mean, the entire text is laden with typos. In some sections, words are missing or switched around, rendering certain passages incomprehensible at worst and confusing at best. On more than one occasion, the love interest’s name, Chris, is spelt as “Chis.” Perhaps this is just an issue with the ebook?
Profile Image for Mona.
27 reviews2 followers
August 27, 2018
2.5 stars. Not bad, but not great either. Somewhat flat characters. I felt like I didn't get to know any of them.
Profile Image for Ryan.
495 reviews
April 6, 2021
Spoilers for There Goes Sunday School

I’m fond of saying that reviewing is not an exact science, and I had this one at various stages throughout my reading, between 3-4 stars. I ended giving it four stars, thought about for a minute, didn’t feel right, and gave it the extra star. That usually doesn’t happen.

There were parts of this book that were a bit too optimistic, I don’t doubt. Wall to wall, characters find hope, no matter how bad things get, and that’s okay and seems to be the author’s style. I’d prefer that to the alternative, but it’s worth noting. Lots of hitting bottom but finding light. Given how down on himself Mike is for much of this book, it’s probably a good thing for the kids reading this.

Here’s where that extra star came from. This is the story of Mike, in the closet, reminded at every turn from every level of his life that homosexuality is a sin of the worst kind. He learns that the minister’s son is also in the closet, their lives get leaked, and things become very difficult for them. Again, the levels of hate and hope get slightly unbalanced, but this book has a lot of heart and gets the messy right, and the extra star comes from pushing past insta-love and strained scenarios and admitting that these kids played a role in each other’s lives, but may not be destined to go on this journey together. That felt really right, with an open ending full of promise.
Profile Image for Donnie.
60 reviews2 followers
January 11, 2023
So much to relate to in this book.

**This review contains spoilers in the way that I count all the ways my life has been like this book**

Many of Mike’s experiences have also been (uncannily) my experiences.
✔️ The denial of my sexuality.

✔️ The introduction to a guy who helped me to see a broader point of view than the tiny bubble I was living in.

✔️ Same guy flipping my switch and helping me to realize that I can experience the love I felt I was missing out on.

✔️ Someone outing me to the dean of the Christian university I was attending.

✔️ Private, Christian University asking me to leave the school or attend mandatory counseling three times a week.

✔️ Coming out to my parents and siblings and them being very chill about it.

✔️ Boyfriend moving away.

Now, twenty years later, I celebrate who I am and cry while reading and listening to audiobooks about young queer kids.
Profile Image for Caroline.
1,144 reviews6 followers
June 4, 2018
WOW, this book was soooo much more than I expected. It was so full of emotion I was laughing one minute and a sobbing mess the next. This really was a beautiful story of young first love, teenagers trying to be teenagers within a very religiously strict community. The storyline is focused on the emotions of the characters, their psychological challenges, their feels, the result is an amazing book.

Coming to terms with your sexuality is hard for everyone but being gay in a community that refers to you as an abomination could be nothing more than horrendous. Mike and Chris have both been struggling alone, even after they find the other is experiencing similar confusion they still struggle with what is right and wrong.

Reviewed for Amo's Book Corner.

I received a copy of this book in return for an honest review.
Profile Image for Jenn (not Lily).
3,799 reviews18 followers
September 19, 2020
Excellent YA novel without getting too bogged down in being overwhelmingly YA -- nice! The struggle of both boys with when and how to come out both to themselves and everyone around them was heartbreaking. In some ways, this was typical of how religious families react, which I know from the inside out. And in other ways, it was refreshingly hopeful, which I also hope to reflect in my own life. And as a personal aside, for anyone who cares, . I'll be looking for more by this author!
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