Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Surrender Your Sons

Rate this book
Connor Major’s summer break is turning into a nightmare.

His SAT scores bombed, the old man he delivers meals to died, and when he came out to his religious zealot mother, she had him kidnapped and shipped off to a secluded island. His final destination: Nightlight Ministries, a conversion therapy camp that will be his new home until he “changes.”

But Connor’s troubles are only beginning. At Nightlight, everyone has something to hide from the campers to the “converted” staff and cagey camp director, and it quickly becomes clear that no one is safe. Connor plans to escape and bring the other kidnapped teens with him. But first, he’s exposing the camp’s horrible truths for what they are—and taking this place down.

422 pages, Hardcover

First published September 15, 2020

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Adam Sass

6 books278 followers

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
973 (38%)
4 stars
880 (34%)
3 stars
494 (19%)
2 stars
151 (5%)
1 star
44 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 730 reviews
Profile Image for Kai Spellmeier.
Author 6 books13.7k followers
December 2, 2020
Conversion Camp Kids Gang Up on their Homophobic Guards - now that is a story I NEED in my life.

Hold my gin, cause I cannot do that while writing this. Also know that I'm slightly buzzed so I do not guarantee that this review will make any sense.

It is no surprise that I have been hyping this book since I first learnt of its existence. That also means my hopes were mile high and my fears of it not being able to deliver had my knees shaking. Luckily, my fears were completely unnecessary because deliver it did. Be warned though, this book is dark. It does not shy away from showing the ugly with all its open wounds and oozing sores. There will be blood, graphic violence, murder, abuse, slurs and more.

I loved this book for many reasons. I like a good, dark, ruthless thriller. I love it even more when it's gay and this book is admittedly rather gay. Plenty gay. It is very very gay, friends. Hence the conversion camp, I suppose. And that's where the trouble starts. So imagine a handful (or two handsful? It's probably "handful", but it's plural and I like making up my own rules so) of queer children and teenagers on a lonely island surrounded my water and a mobster of cruel, definitely not well-meaning and actually super evil adults pretending to "re-straighten" them while really they just enjoy oppressing and manipulation people that have less power than they do. These kids need to find a way to escape, otherwise they'll be spending months, if not years on that island. Some of them have already been there for a long time. I'm glad that this book only spans a few days cause I don't think I could have handled any more than that. In order to escape, they will have to uncover a lot of abhorrent secrets that will make the mobster want to keep them hidden away on the island until their last breath, be that in thirty years or, well, tomorrow.

I don't want to to take too much away, plot wise. So let me just say that this was an incredibly well-plotted, super fast-paced and intense story. The characters had depth and while there were quite a lot of them, it wasn't difficult to keep them apart. I personally prefer well-written characters over a well-constructed plot, but luckily this book had both, so why choose.
I loved that it discusses coming-out, and that the privilege of having a supportive and loving family often makes people forget that not everyone is in a safe enough environment to guarantee that it will accept them. So don't let anyone, not even yourself, pressurise you to come out. Dean Atta wrote a fantastic poem about this that you can find in both, the Proud anthology and his novel The Black Flamingo. Both come highly recommended.

I found the romance very insta-lovey but considering these kids are under so much pressure, I honestly cannot blame them for falling in love with a friendly, muscular, bespectacled dude with great hair. The use of the word amoeba made me giggle once or twice, cause suddenly I was thinking of bacteria rather than teenagers but then, where's the difference, really.

Now I'm hoping you could make some sense of this review which, I agree, is all over the place. So if there's one thing you should take away from this it's:


Anyhow, Adam, if you're reading this, you better give us a sequel otherwise I will be m a d. Mad. I will be mad, understood?

Find more of my books on Instagram
Profile Image for Adam Sass.
Author 6 books278 followers
May 28, 2019
YEEEEES, I'm reviewing my own book!

But just to say thank you to everyone showing all of this love and excitement for it in advance, as well as all my beta readers and CP's who helped whip this into shape before it sold. I've wanted to see an diverse, LGBTQ+ ensemble adventure story for a long time, and SURRENDER YOUR SONS is exactly whaat I grew up wanting to see.

Here's some teaser images, with a lot more to come as the year goes on. https://twitter.com/TheAdamSass/statu...
Profile Image for Claude's Bookzone.
1,535 reviews215 followers
October 29, 2020

Well that was quite intense and at times upsetting.

It saddens me that some people's love for their children isn't unconditional. However they may try to explain away their attempts to 'fix' their kids as 'acts of love', they will always only ever send one message to their children - you aren't what I wanted or expected and there is something wrong with you. It hurts. Like physically hurts me to think of my children ever thinking they aren't good enough. I love them. That's all.

This book is a raw exploration of how this lack of acceptance can have devastating outcomes. I think the blurb pretty much covers what you need to know about this book. I don't think it's the most well written novel I have ever read and I didn't feel totally drawn to the characters, but the story itself is quite gripping and very important. I had some issues with the narration of the audiobook so I personally suggest reading it instead.

Aroha nui ki a koutou katoa
Profile Image for sarah.
404 reviews267 followers
September 12, 2020
raw, emotional and deeply relevant, Surrender Your Sons is a book you do not want to miss out on.

scrolling through netgalley one day, I stumbled upon this book and clicked the elusive 'wish for it' button, promptly forgetting about it. Flash forward and 'the publisher has granted your wish' appeared in my inbox. You have no idea about the rush of adrenaline that phrase gives me. I hadn't heard a single person talking about it, which in itself is a travesty. So I decided to go into it blind and see where the experience took me. And let me tell you, it was certainly an experience.

I would actually recommend not knowing too much about it before diving in, as to not spoil a single one of the twists and turns this roller coaster of a book takes you on. The bare bones premise is that a queer teenage boy is one day whisked away to 'Nightlight', a convention therapy camp by his religious zealot mother until he becomes 'normal'. Things are even more sinister than first appear and Connor devises a plan to not only escape, but take the camp down. I won't tell you anything more than that- if you want to know, you should read it instead *nudge nudge*.

I knew I would love this book before I even read the first page. The authors note that prefaces the book had me emotional before I even began.

"It's not about queer pain. It's about what queers do with pain. Queer pain is something we've seen either too much of in media or bungled in some way... I promise you, the reader: in the pages of Surrender Your Sons, there's light in the dark. You'll find scary things in this book, but just like in life, when the trouble hits, you'll also find humour, good friends, and courage you couldn't imagine in your wildest dreams"

What was contained within the pages of the actual story similarly had me in various states of emotion. I felt everything from disgust to anger to devastation to hope. Surrender Your Sons may not be easy to read, but it is similarly not easy to forget. I felt ashamed of ignorance regarding the current state of conversion camps in the world. It is easy to think that they are something of the past, overcome by this age of acceptance. But that is simply not true and to believe so, is to deny the pain of the hundreds of thousands of people who have been forced to 'fix themselves'. It is horrifying, but it is reality.

But this book is not just about bringing awareness to these difficult truths. It is funny, filled with loveable characters and an adorable blossoming romance.

I did have some slight issues with aspects of the story, including the unbelievable time period it takes place over, and some odd choices that verge on being problematic. This is a spoiler, but it is quite clear from the beginning that this would happen. I want to mention it because I have read some reviews of people being unaware of this element and not liking the book as a result. It didn't bother me at all, but I know many people have an issue with this:

I would recommend this book to almost everyone. Almost. If you feel you could be triggered by some of the content in the book, I would urge you to wait until a better time to pick it up. Apart from that, please please read this when it comes out! I would love to see this own voices queer story getting the hype it deserves.

Thank you to North Star Editions for this ARC

Release Date: 15 September 2020
Profile Image for Kyle.
377 reviews556 followers
March 9, 2020
“The Publisher has granted your wish” is probably one of the most divine phrases in my literary universe.
Thank you thank you thank you Flux/North Star Editions, and thank you, NetGalley, for the chance to read this eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Actual rating: 3.5 (rounded down) *possibly subject to change (higher)*

**Citizens of Goodreads: Do not let my average rating deter you from checking out this book! I am a bastard that is hard to please, and this one is worth the read.**

In the ‘Author’s Note’ we’re preempted with: This book is “...not about queer pain. It’s about what queer’s do with pain.” And if that doesn’t just fucking hit hard...

If I were to compare this to other more familiar books, I’d say it’s a mix between Boy Erased: A Memoir of Identity, Faith, and Family, Lord of the Flies, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, and a little sprinkling of The Hunger Games. You would never think a hodgepodge of those novels and genres would create anything decent, but believe me when I say that it WORKS!

The writing is exceptional! Mr. Sass has a way of getting my emotions all frayed with how he writes certain scenes. He does so, however, with care, as there are some triggering topics and dark subject matter within: TW’s for homophobia, suicide, physical and mental abuse, graphic violence, anxiety attacks, swearing, and sexual content.

From the start, I was not a fan of Ario (Connor’s boyfriend) for essentially pressuring him into coming out. That is unacceptable. If you’re not ready, you’re not ready. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Parts of the story got a little too explicit, I’d say, for a YA book. Even though the characters range in age from 12-20, there is some semi-graphic sexual content, and quite a lot of swearing. I’m against censorship, though, and I feel the average teen is not going to balk at the content within this novel. But I’m no prude, either... this is just a forewarning to anyone sensitive to such things.

Let me just say: “The wolf and the calf” section GAVE. ME. CHILLS! Holy shit, what a gut punch! I must reiterate how little this happens to me as of late—there are so few books that give me such strong emotional reactions—but this one did me in. Another scene that struck me hard (and I understand the point of the symbology) .

On characters: I mean, I thought they were believable and well fleshed-out. A few of the antagonists had some questionable motives—Lots of unanswered questions, plot holes, and disbelief over some of the dramatics—but all the campers really grew on me. The rep here is pretty phenomenal, too! The trans character having proper pronouns and not once being dead-named is a plus... not many authors these days seem to have that kind of sensitivity, or know how to handle it well.

I have a few complaints, however: one is with the pacing. Don’t get me wrong, the book had me hooked from the start, but lulled a bit between 20%-40%, and then picked up again, but was unfortunately kind of clunky towards the end. It was pretty damn anticlimactic (though, I don’t think I could’ve handled it getting too violent; I don’t think it would have been appropriate given the subject matter). Still, I found it lacking. My biggest issue, however, is with the time frame. Are we really supposed to believe that the entire narrative on the island happens over the course of only 2 days??? I find that absurd; the suspension of disbelief only goes so far with me. If the plot was drawn out a bit more over, say, a week even, then I would’ve been satisfied. But 48 hours is totally unbelievable for how much goes on in this book. I wanted to rate this higher, I mean, it should be rated higher, but I cannot get past the brief narrative timeline on the island.

If anything, it’s set up perfectly for a (maybe?) sequel. I’d love a continuation, in fact! These are important stories; the structuring just needs tidying up. All-in-all, I’m thrilled to have read this, and beg the author for MORE!
September 16, 2020
Q: “It might be a boot camp. Just a little extra boot—” (c)
Q: Nightlight has no TV, no running water, no basic necessities…but they’ve got body bags. (c)
Q: “‘Telling the truth is addictive once you get the taste for it,’” (c)

A gay kid's mom hands him off to a boot camp. With extra emphasis on boot.

Kidnapping, weird shit happening, thrills of getting out in a super-religious community.

Of course, the kid was not particularly impressive: sexuality is good (whichever flavour it might be!) but exams - they need to be handled separately.

The emotional control of Connor is nonexistent: 100% external locus of control is not a pretty sight to behold. Yes, I know, mum's always at fault. And she is: going all zealot on her son's ass is not a good idea. Then again, who's ideal?

All the religious gruff&fluff in this one is really overblown into some strange sect stuff. Basically an islandfull of closet someones goes on preaching about body immovable and mind gone soft. Well, theirs - definitely!

After it becomes clear that weird shit's afoot, the kids get themselves off the island in a hurry while getting a lot of investigations done on other crimes committed by the program inmates/runners. Not all the motivations of the older generation are revealed in a way that makes sense but hey - these people actually employ Jesus to convert kids into alternate sexuality - not likely they can do much that makes sense! The Rev. Packard and the rest of his tag team probably wouldn't recognise sense if it bit them in their glorified asses.

Takeout: if you ever are kidnapped to an island chockfull of criminal weirdoes, here's the algorythm:
- highjack the control over the situation,
- if there's 'extra boot' in this bootcamp, be nice & sensible - hand them every single boot back,
- gather a likeminded team,
- investigate the hell of the situation,
- hightail out of there ASAP!
Bingo! You're the national hero now and your kidnappers are in deepest shit!

Oh, WOW!
I only wish I weren’t still clutching his hand as the muffled oohs and unhhhs float through the wafer-thin closet door. It feels like we’re part of a very bizarre foursome. (c)
It took five minutes to reassure Drew that Molly, Marcos, and I would also prefer Ben Briggs live his whole life never knowing that three teenagers were eavesdropping on him screwing a fourth teenager. (c)
“Hey, honey,” I sneer, straightening. “If you want to hook up with Evil Hagrid who kidnaps kids to Homophobic Hogwarts, that’s your business—” (c)
On my journey up the zigzagging stairs to Briggs’s treehouse office, my pockets sink under a growing weight: Bill’s headphones in my waistband; his Walkman in my right pocket; Ricky’s Playbill in my left, alongside the Reverend’s Polaroid. If I collect anything more, I’m going to need cargo shorts or something. (c)

Other stuff:
She excludes anybody in her life who might warn her about what an out-of-control zealot she’s turned into. (c)
I change as some frightening, roided-out man stands watch—it’s my middle school sex nightmares all over again. (c)
Crying? Everyone at Nightlight is competing to gross me out the most, and so far, everyone is winning. (c)
And no, the irony of us hiding in a closet to escape from violent zealots isn’t lost on me. (c)
They’re gonna make you disappear, Mr. Cute. Mr. Flirty, Cute, Jokey-Joke, Flute Around the Neck.” (c)
I’m also in a bit of a hurry because, apparently, there’s a gay-bashing maniac on the loose. (c)
We queers are a devious breed. Quick storytellers. (c)
“You people…I can’t turn my back on you for a second. I don’t know what it is. … Y’all move like cats, the bunch of you.”
“Don’t like cats?” I ask. (c)
Profile Image for Aiden Thomas.
Author 8 books7,472 followers
August 24, 2020
SURRENDER YOUR SONS is a brutally honest thriller about conversion therapy camps, trauma and what it takes to fight back. This book completely knocked me off my feet. I've been hungry for queer books across genres, and FINALLY I have SYS to fill the queer thriller hole in my heart.

*To be clear, this book is incredibly dark and intense. Some readers who aren't ready for the CW Adam Sass has laid out should probably shy away.*

That being said, Adam Sass is an incredibly talented writer and the last third of this book had me on the edge of my seat and I sobbed through the epilogue (something I haven't experience with a book in several years). Sass interviewed conversation therapy survivors for a video promoting Focus Features' "Boy Erased" which gives the story, and especially its characters, palpable authenticity.

SURRENDER YOUR SONS is a unique mix of being an entertaining thriller, while also diving deep into queer suffering — namely how it affects young queers, how they internalize it, and, most importantly, how they can survive it. Reading this book has changed me and Adam Sass' words will be taking up residence between my ribs for a long time to come.

"It was so kind of you to visit me in my loneliness."
Profile Image for Larry H.
2,509 reviews29.5k followers
October 14, 2020
Surrender Your Sons is so powerful, suspenseful, and moving. It is an utterly intense and unforgettable book.

Things have been pretty tough for Connor since he came out to his fervently religious mother. She’s taken away his phone and all his technology, she’s roped him into delivering Meals on Wheels with her church, and she watches him like a hawk, so he can almost never see his boyfriend, Ario.

But as bad as it has been, he cannot believe she paid to have him kidnapped in the middle of the night and spirited away to Nightlight Ministries, a conversion camp that “changes” LGBTQ children back to their “normal” selves. It’s a frightening place where the threat of violence and punishment and never being able to leave hang over everyone’s heads.

As devastated and hurt as he feels, as unsure as he is about what he should do, Connor knows things aren’t what they seem at camp. Everyone has something to hide—even the director and the “recovered” counselors—and Connor is determined to uncover the truth. But he’ll be putting himself and his fellow campers in danger, as people will stop at nothing to protect themselves and the way of life they believe in.

Sadly, conversion therapy is still a reality in a number of states and places around the world. While this is fiction, the idea behind it is not, and that is one reason this book feels so powerful.

Surrender Your Sons is intense and suspenseful; it’s sad but ultimately, there are notes of hope. Adam Sass told an incredibly moving story. I had a little bit of a problem with the timeframe of the story—it seemed like things should have occurred over a few days instead of one day only—but I still loved this book so much.

I hope that sometime in the not-too-distant future, conversion therapy will be a thing of the past everywhere, and no one will care who people love, just that they love.

Check out my list of the best books I read in 2019 at https://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com/2020/01/the-best-books-i-read-in-2019.html.

Check out my list of the best books of the decade at https://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com/2020/01/my-favorite-books-of-decade.html.

See all of my reviews at itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com.

Follow me on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/the.bookishworld.of.yrralh/.
Profile Image for Boston.
421 reviews1,875 followers
June 28, 2020
4.5 stars. Full review to come
Profile Image for charlotte,.
3,222 reviews871 followers
August 7, 2020
On my blog.

Rep: gay mc, Latino gay li, Muslim side character, trans side character, gay side characters, Black bi side character, lesbian side character, quadraplegic side character

CWs: conversion therapy, murder (presented initially as suicide), homophobic language, internalised homophobia, homophobic violence (including murder), transphobia, homophobic abuse

Galley provided by publisher

I knew Surrender Your Sons wasn’t really going to be my kind of book almost from before I actually started reading it. So this review and rating are more about what I couldn’t deal with, more than a statement on how good the book itself is.

My main issue was that the whole thing gave me a vague undercurrent of anxiety throughout, because I was waiting for something horrific and graphic to happen at the conversion therapy camp. In the grand scheme of things, that part wasn’t actually so bad. There isn’t anything that’s detailed and graphic about the activities that make up conversion therapy. So if you’re worried about that, then it’s fine in that sense. Because I was worried about that and that is what gave me the uneasy sense throughout and probably ruined at least part of any likelihood of me enjoying it.

So, really, that was my main problem. And yeah, with that, I probably started picking up on other things more easily. You know how it goes.

The whole thing takes place, somewhat disbelievingly, over the course of a single day. Connor arrives at night, wakes up the next day, and by the time 24 hours has passed by, the entire camp has been taken down. Now, I might be able to believe that a little better if, say, there had been a plan in place that Connor just slots into. But there isn’t.

However, I’m well aware that’s an issue with my inability to suspend my disbelief.

But then it also turns out all of the homophobic villains are actually gay. And that I really didn’t like here, to be honest. Would it have been so hard to have them be straight? Really? And, okay, so the real Big Bad is probably straight, but the immediate villains in this were not. So that didn’t feel so great. It felt, at times, as if it was saying “maybe you should feel sorry for this violently homophobic man because he’s gay and closeted and self-hating”. So fine, I feel sorry in theory, but in general, too many homophobes in media across the board are written as gay and self-hating, that I’m not really a fan of the trope, regardless of who writes it.

Finally, there were some questionable age gaps in a few relationships. Like Drew and Briggs who are 20 and 40-plus (and also in a doubly questionable situation where Briggs is a guard at the camp and Drew one of the “campers”), and later, a character is described as dating an adult, when he’s a college freshman.

But I did manage to find a positive in all this, I will say. It’s a fairly extreme way of showing it, sure, but the book does show you that the whole “come out at all costs” mindset can be incredibly dangerous. I liked that it took a strong stance on that, especially hot on the heels of having read a book where two characters insisted that someone had to be out for them to be in their respective relationships. For me, this isn’t something you can equivocate about, so that message was great. And there’s a happy ending, which is even better.

Plus I learned that the phrase “rode hard and put away wet” has a massively different meaning for some people than it does for me.
Profile Image for Tiernan.
116 reviews1,730 followers
September 18, 2020
One of the best books I've read all year. Boy Erased meets Lost - high emotion & nonstop action. I couldn't stop reading!!!
Profile Image for Sol ~ TheBookishKing.
304 reviews187 followers
August 25, 2020
"I wish being gay was more fun. Everyone else looks like they’re having so much fun, but as soon as I enter Queer Land, it’s all danger camps and punishment and being too tightly wound to enjoy the little sex I was getting."

Surrender Your Sons is easily my favorite YA read of 2020. I didn't know what to expect going in, I saw someone on Instagram raving about it and requested it on a whim and I'm very glad that I did. This book made me feel probably every emotion possible, I went from laughing, to crying, to being so Goddamn triggered, back to laughing and crying again. This is such a roller coaster of a book and Adam Sass really outdid himself.


This story follows Connor Majors, a 17 year old gay kid growing up in a very small, religion driven town. His mother is so incredibly homophobic it's shocking but Connor still knows who he is and what he wants in life. One night a couple of men in masks come to whisk him away on a "vacation" this his mom paid for and this sets the story up for the rest of the book. The vacation spot is an island in Costa Rica that just so happens to be Nightlight Conversion Camp. And the head of the camp turns out to be the Pastor of the town that Connor is from. From here Connor and a bunch of other Queer Kids are stuck on this island and are trying to do their best to stay true to themselves and survive. But the rest of the kids and Connor get together a plan to escape.

I don't want to say much about the storyline because I think it would be much more enjoyable to go in blind with just the idea of a bunch of Queer Kids trying to escape a crazy ass conversion camp. As I mentioned above, this book is very triggering, as someone who grew up in a very religious family, as soon as the bible verses started to drop I wanted to run away super fast. This also tackles a lot of mental health issues, there's obviously a lot of blatant homophobia, and there's a suicide scene that could be triggering for some people.

And even though this seems like a really dark book (I mean it definitely is) there's also a ton of funny ass moments and a cute little romance and a lot of empowering scenes. Even though Surrender Your Sons really tackles what it means to be a Queer Kid growing up in non-accepting families and the mental toll it takes on the youth, it also keeps you hopeful and excited.

"Saying you’re bi is a little too complicated for the Noah’s Ark Gang here at Nightlight.”

When it comes to the characters, I love every single of them. The plot is phenomenal, the writing pulls you in so fast, and the set up of the camp was done so perfectly. Connor is a great Main Character and I'm super glad that he's the one whose head we were in. Honestly though, this could have been told from any of the other kids' PoV and it would have still been a great book. Connor is great though, I love everything about him. Also the little romance that Connor and someone else from the Camp that was thrown in was *very very cute.*

I definitely recommend this to everyone, but if you're someone who is easily triggered when it comes to homophobes uhmm I would definitely say hold off on this. Some scenes in here felt like a punch straight to the gut and yeah it hurts like hell, but it's also very relatable.

I could continue to just say how much I love this and how perfect it was but I'll stop ahaha. ANYWAYS! Go read this book once it releases on September 15th. Thanks <3
Profile Image for Fanna.
992 reviews533 followers
November 28, 2020
October 30, 2020: ❊ a gripping thriller that captivates you, a triggering read with the harsh reality of conversion camps, and a narrative voice that amplifies important, devastating, and heartbreaking themes through a great prose. ❊

➼ raw, unfiltered, harsh reality of a conservative parent, religious scrutiny, and the possibility of someone loved sending you miles away to a camp that guarantees to convert queers, is unravelled unflinchingly in this novel—leaving you shaken at times.

➼ a gay teen representation appreciated by majority of ownvoices readers so worth positively highlighting, and the broader aim of depicting LGBTQ+ characters fighting the overestimated homophobes who tried to shackle the queer is needed in YA stories.

➼ even in the midst of absolute horror, the growing solidarity flourishes into romantic and platonic relationships to ultimately speak the truth of emerging from darkness through the strength of love, friendship, and shared identity.

➼ excellent writing but the pacing sometimes falters, considering the entire story is set in a very short time span, and there exists the unintentional under-representation of the BIPOC side characters who contributed through way more effort but the story overpowers them by the white boy who conveniently saves everyone in a single day.

October 09, 2020: Will definitely read this before the year ends! And yes, I failed yet another buddy read.

September 08, 2020: It's a shame I'm starting this six months after I got an early copy. YEAH, please don't attack me, I know I'm a very bad person and I AM SORRY. Anyway, buddy reading with the amazing person and a very fast reader, Gargee!

February 28, 2020: I can't wait to read a daring exposure of pathetic conversion camps! Thank you, North Star Editions at Flux for a digital review copy via Netgalley.
Profile Image for Linn.
63 reviews16 followers
March 14, 2020
First of all: I found this book really heavy to read. There were CW's, so I was prepared, but it was hard nevertheless. The author wrote it's a book about what queers "do" with pain and I think that says it all.

"Surrender your sons" is one of the books you should read without knowing too much, which makes it really hard to review. 😂 But let's put it like this: I had so many theories in my head and I really wanted to know what would happen next. The author managed to create tension by only throwing in so much (or so little) information that I couldn't put the book down.

I really liked the characters. I had the feeling Adam Sass did a great job in creating characters that weren't just black or white. Everyone had a past and different experiences and all of this was perfectly woven into the character's portrayal and development. Like, an abusive person may have suffered in their past and maybe we even sympathize with that person, but it doesn't make them less abusive. This was done really, really well.

I had some problems with the pacing, though. Everything basically happens in two days and I personally think the story would have worked even better, if the characters had a little more time.
Also one time a character is called "ob*se", which is in most fat spaces considered a slur. It's a really hurtful word for some people and I think there are many great ways to describe someone without using that word.

All in all this book is totally thrilling and kept me running through its pages. It's also very hurtful, but it leaves you with hope. There's still a lot of work to do, but there are always people who love you and want to fight with you together. ❤

Thanks to netgalley for the free eARC.
Profile Image for Monte Price.
672 reviews1,837 followers
September 2, 2022
I'm back on my bullshit, trying to get to some long neglected Netgalley ARCs and this felt like as good a place as any to go next.

Y'all... I loved this book. I don't know if it's the quaint charm of the accent the audiobook narrator used or how it was giving me Holes, but make it queer, but all the puzzle pieces really fit together on this one.

I don't think that a book that is looking to tackle kids getting kidnapped and taken to a conversion camp on a Costa Rican island could be all that optimistic, but this sort of straddles that line? It's a little bleak, but grounded in a realism that still allows the reader to feel for hope but never tries to undercut itself by becoming overly saccharine in the last act of the book. It allows the reader to stew in the melancholy and grapple with the realness.

I was gagged several times while listening to the narration. Both because I didn't expect the book to go to all of the places that it went, and because I was allowing myself to appreciate all the moments of triumph the book was giving me.

All in all it was an excellent way to kick off my September, and I'm happy that I have an ARC of Sass' next book to help comfort me after having this experiences.

Surrender Your Sons has also made me a believer in the time crunch novel again. I think it was helped by the fact that the plot of the book doesn't really hang on the limited time frame until you're well into the book. Up until then it doesn't really cross the readers mind just how long the narrative is going to go on for and that was to the book's benefit. Without the ticking clock running in the back of my mind I was better able to appreciate the looming clock I had been unaware of.
Profile Image for cameron.
146 reviews743 followers
May 20, 2021
this was so boring and the most random shit kept happening i really think this could have been 250 pages shorter
Profile Image for Laxmama .
583 reviews
April 21, 2020
3.5 Stars. I was thrilled to be granted this one from Netgalley off my wishlist. I had been hearing about this book for some time. The story caught and held my attention the premise was interesting. Connor Major a teenager who came out before he was ready, his family not happy about it. Connor is a fantastic MC, he is so direct, he nails the discomforts and insecurities of being a teen, falling for someone and sexually. The writing from his POV incredible, his candor and wit spot on. Connor is taken from his home to a conversion camp, with others in the same situation. There were many great messages within this story as well as fantastic writing that I really enjoyed.

However everything happens within the shortest time period it’s unrealistic, odd and did not give me a chance to adapt to the new setting or situation. Revelations, mysteries, instant friendships and love happened within 24 hours. I felt the story would have worked better if there was more development of that part of the story.
Profile Image for  Gabriele | QueerBookdom .
302 reviews154 followers
September 14, 2020
ARC provided by North Star Editions via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Trigger Warnings: death, queerphobia, suicide, violence, cultism.

Surrender Your Sons by Adam Sass is a gut punch of a book. It evoked quite a few strong sentiments in me: anxiety, sorrow, anger to name a few. It left a sour taste in my mouth. It’s an emotional, challenging book that needs the reader to be ready to take it head on.

Connor is a dynamic narrator, one you get easily attached to. And the rest of the crew is just as impressive and strong. Even if this novel is fictional, real cases of similar stories exist. Conversion therapy is not a long-lost practice. It is still a reality in many places. There are people who hate and hurt queer folks just for the taste of it.

As much as I hated the obvious villains in the story, there’s one character that irked me so markedly, namely Ario. I don’t know if I can even define it a trope, but I really hate when characters are forced into coming out because they fear losing their current partner. “And the prize for WORST BOYFRIEND EVER goes to… Ario!” No one has the right to decide when another person comes out other than that person! I already hate the fact that queer people have to come out in the first place. “Why is straight the default? Everyone should have to declare one way or another, and it shouldn't be this big awkward thing whether you're straight, gay, bi, or whatever. I'm just saying.” Becky Albertalli said it perfectly.

I’m not the best reviewer and there are far better analyses of this novel out there. Still, I gave my two cents and I ask for people to read this book. It’s a must-read.
Profile Image for Sahitya.
1,050 reviews215 followers
February 29, 2020
CW: suicide and talk about an attempt, parental and other abuse, punishments, panic attacks. It takes place in a conversion therapy camp, so be prepared for a lot of homophobia.

I stumbled upon this book while browsing on twitter and I thought it was such an intriguing premise. I never expected my Wish for it would be granted on Netgalley but as soon as it was, I couldn’t think of reading anything else but this. And wow was I not wrong. I really don’t have words to describe what I’m feeling right now after finishing it.

The first thing I can say is that this book is unputdownable. Once I started reading, I just couldn’t even imagine putting it down till I reached the end and knew what had happened to all the characters. It’s that engaging and interesting. It also captures the teenage voice and their emotions very well. The book is very tightly plotted, with each little thing being revealed very slowly but still keeping the mystery alive, and I never guessed the complete truth. As most of the book takes place in a religious conversion camp, I was expecting it to be very horrifying - and the author manages to capture the horror of what’s happening and the terror the young kids feel, while also showing the beautiful solidarity that forms between the kids themselves. There are friendships, romantic relationships and platonic bonds that form and they are what give us joy in an otherwise bleak situation. This is truly a story about finding light in darkness, and strength in adversity.

And what a great ensemble of characters this book has. The story might be told only through Connor’s POV, but we meet so many amazing young queer kids who are put in unimaginable situations and the strength and resilience they show is highly admirable. Most of this story takes place in just about two days, but the author really lets us get to know each of them very intimately - their stories, their inherent natures and what they are ready to do to get out of the hellhole they are in. Connor, Marcos, Molly, Darcy, Lacrishia, Jack, Vance and all the other children - I loved every single one of them and was rooting for them throughout because they deserve all the love and protection.

The author also doesn’t shy away from showing the brutality of the people running the camp, but at the same time is able to create moments where we even sympathize with them. This is masterful writing and just emphasizes the point that the cycle of abuse is real and people who do monstrous things may have suffered in the past themselves, but that doesn’t make them any less predatory. And while it’s wonderful to see the queer kids fight back and stand up for themselves, the author also gives a reality check that out in the world, there will still be people who will trust the predators and zealots, and punishing a few of them doesn’t make the bigotry go away. The story is also very open about the long term harm that these kids suffer and how much positive support and psychological help they need to be able to get through it all. There is also the harsh reality that it’s not always easy or possible be out of the closet or to cut off homophobic family members and how living with them can be an ordeal in itself.

To conclude, this book is an intense mystery that gets hold of you on the first page and doesn’t let you go till the end. And despite the horrific setting of the story and the brutality that ensues, it’s characters are full of heart, humor and hope and we just keep wishing that they’ll make it out alright. There are a lot of uncomfortable truths are that are present in this story and that’s precisely why I think we should all read it.
Profile Image for Mimi.
452 reviews110 followers
August 14, 2020
Insert that "fuck this shit I'm out" meme here but picture me as the dancing stick figure

Honestly, this book will appeal to a lot of people and I can see this easily being turned into a movie but for me there's a fine line between showing queer pain and exploiting it and this story just...was more of the latter for me.

Also, be safe and look up the trigger warnings for this before diving in. "Depictions of queer pain" as it says does not encompass all the gruesome things in this so be warned 🧡
Profile Image for Lance.
537 reviews155 followers
July 6, 2020
ARC provided by the publisher from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

"The fog feels like amnesia, or a dream—a secret I'm trying to tell myself. My brain knows what it is, but it can only tell me in riddles? What is this secret?"

"It's not about about queer pain. It's about what queers do with pain.

5 stars. Y’all, Surrender Your Sons is a masterpiece and I can’t wait for everyone to be able to read it. I just want to reiterate: it is such a privilege that I was able to read this early. This ownvoices, gay thriller about queer people triumphing over hatred and pain being inflicted upon them deserves all the hype it that early reviews have been giving it. It was honestly a very interesting experience for me to read this right after rereading Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda and seeing the way the two contrast one another. But beyond that, this book itself excels in several areas: prose and characterization are two of the most praise-worthy facets of this novel. However, I think what this novel excels at best is the way it authentically captures what it's like to be a gay teen.

But first let's talk about prose. The fact that Adam Sass is a debut novel astounds me: his prose reads like that of a seasoned author. His writing occupies that sweet spot I absolutely love between stark, sharp writing and it's more flowery, purple counterpart. Sass' writing is razor sharp, unflinching, but is a perfect medium to express Connor's thoughts with a type of poetic clarity that is done in a way that does not bog down the story and instead accentuates it. Whether it'd be expressing the horror clawing up Connor's throat at some of the things he is forced to endure at the conversion camp, expressing his love for certain other characters, or feeling a complicated mix of both, Sass is able to express Connor's thoughts and emotions with remarkable clearness. I can't wait to get a finished copy of this book, reread it, and highlight some of my favorite quotes.

Sass also evidently able to use use his skill as a writer to deftly flesh-out the characters within his novel. Connor's voice reads as both well-fleshed out and realistic. As this novel is written in first person, Connor's voice as a character must be well-drawn enough so the reader can get attached to him even before he must brave the horrors of the conversion camp. Sass succeeds in this well-within the first few pages, showing that he is a queer teen just trying to find his own happiness in awful circumstances: he lives with a religious zealot of a mother, has an absent father, is feeling the brunt of the consequences of coming out, and is living in abject poverty. While Connor arrives to the island in a state of shock and horror, his gradual development into a leader in helping the other queer kids on the island escape is so satisfying to watch.

Sass' success with characterization isn't just limited to his main protagonist. Molly, Marcos, as well as the rest of the supporting cast are all very well drawn-out with their own motivations and plans. The supporting cast, alongside Connor, are also used to show the power of community and found family amongst queer kids. All of the kids that Connor meets at the camp have been rejected and failed by people who were supposed to love them unconditionally; the way queer kids form communities out of necessity is showcased in this book.

Speaking of that, this is one of the most honest and accurate portrayals of a gay Gen Z teen I've seen. This is especially apparent to me post-rereading Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda: while the book is a very good depiction of what being a gay teen is like and I will love that book to my dying day, I'd argue that Surrender Your Sons offers a more raw portrayal of that gay teen experience. Everything from Connor's music choices to the vocabulary used by characters in this book to the way his narration shows that yes, Connor is a hormonal teenage boy. For that last one in particular, it's so refreshing: as Sass is an ownvoices author, he is able to accurately depict Connor's sexuality and desire without it coming across as fetishistic or gross. It was so refreshing to see.

Conclusively: please pick this up when it comes out this fall. But also keep in mind that this should only be read when the reader is in the right head-space to read it: big trigger warnings though for suicide, sexual scenes, graphic violence, mention of hate crimes, both physical and mental abuse, homophobia, and transphobia. Regardless, just like Sass says in his author's note, this book is about the light that comes after the dark. Rest assured at the end of the day, this book is about queer triumph and hope!
Profile Image for Rory Michaelson.
Author 5 books86 followers
October 12, 2020
How do you start a review for a book like Surrender Your Sons?

How about this: Surrender Your Sons made me cry so ugly my iPhone didn’t recognise my face after.

I don’t think I have ever read a book that I was so invested in a character so quickly as I was Connor Major. I don’t think I have ever read a first chapter that filled me with hope, sadness, anger and fear all at once. This is Surrender your sons, and you could never.

Surrender Your Sons isn’t just a coming of age YA queer thriller, it is a revolution. It is generations of queer people saying ENOUGH. This book has a pulse, it’s strong, and it isn’t stopping. It can’t, and more importantly, it shouldn’t. Surrender Your Sons is heart-breaking, funny, shocking, horrible, beautiful, devastating and victorious. Go and read it now
Profile Image for Anniek.
1,861 reviews688 followers
May 17, 2020
Okay, so I'm rating this book 2 stars based on my own experience (because that's what I base my ratings on.) I didn't think this was a bad book. But I'm also wishing I hadn't picked this up at all. I think this is mostly a me problem: I don't normally read thrillers, and I don't enjoy reading about extreme violence. I had completely different expectations about what this book was going to be, and that's on me, it's not the book's fault. But it did make this a very heavy, very challenging read. Especially because all of the extreme violence is targeted towards queer people because they're queer.

The author's note said that this book wasn't about queer pain, but about what queer people do with queer pain. I really appreciated this note, but it also made me wait for when the pain would stop. This was probably a wrong assumption on my part, but please be more aware than I was going in that this is not a very uplifting or hopeful read, and that there's a lot of suffering in this book.

Overall, I thought this was a really triggering read, so I'm having a lot of trouble articulating my thoughts. I'll give it a try, though. Honestly, if you're a fan of dark thrillers, you'll probably enjoy this book. As long as you're aware of the trigger warnings, that is. But the reason thrillers often don't work for me is also why I didn't end up enjoying this book: I often find that the characters are very flat, and I don't enjoy reading plot-driven books if the characters feel underdeveloped. For me to like a thriller, it would have to keep me on the edge of my seat and really surprise me with some of the plot twists. That didn't happen in this book. I also didn't appreciate that the one disabled character in the book was killed off to advance the plot. This was very central to the plot and it feels comparable to the "bury your gays" trope but with disabled people. I know thrillers often have tropes like this, but that's another reason why I'm not generally a big thriller fan.

I'm sorry if my review isn't very clear. I was just really thrown off by this book. I'm personally not someone who wants to read about extreme homophobic violence if it isn't dealt with very carefully and framed in a really hopeful narrative, but I know there are probably people out there for whom it will be important to read this. I'm really glad there's space for different queer stories to be told, this just wasn't one that worked for me.

CWs: murder, conversion therapy, abuse, homophobic violence, extreme internalized & religious homophobia, abduction
Profile Image for Marieke (mariekes_mesmerizing_books).
507 reviews335 followers
September 21, 2020
I love fast paced, witty and blunt writing. I like thrillers. I’m touched by stories that handle topics that are important. This is the second book I read in a few months where conversion camps are (a big) part of the story (Fin & Rye and fireflies is the other one) and I feel pain and anger every time I read a story like this. Why can’t we just accept that we’re all equal but not the same? When I read stories like this I realize we still have a long way to go and I hate it. Kids should be able to live their own life, gay, straight, bi, trans, ace whatsoever with parents that love and support them.

Adam Sass’ writing is outstanding. He’s witty and blunt and at the same time a master in using words to show us Connors feelings:
Mom went hyper-Jesus nuclear.
My little bottle of emotions unscrews another
A tsunami of pins and needles invades my arms.
The characterization is wonderful.

At first it didn’t feel like a thriller and I’d call it a contemporary with mystery or thriller elements instead of a thriller. But what’s in the name? In the second half of the story the thriller elements are clearly more and more visible.

In the first half of the book I wasn’t that touched by the book. Yeah, the story is fast paced and gripping and I couldn’t put it down -I had to though- but touched, like feeling my chest tighten, getting goosebumps, a lump in my throat or anything like that? Not really. That changed in the second half of the story. The events got grimmer and darker and the kids were brutally confronted with things they shouldn’t experience at their age, not even as adults.

I don’t think the story was perfect, the book could have been better if the events happened in a couple of days instead of one. At some point Marcos talks about having lunch and I thought lunch? Isn’t the day almost over yet? But because of the outstanding writing, the importance of this story, the fantastic characterization, knowing this is a debut and the wonderful strong epilogue-yeah, I got those goosebumps and the lump in my throat- I round my rating up to five stars.
Profile Image for Krystelle Fitzpatrick.
609 reviews31 followers
March 4, 2020
Wow. That’s all I’ve got, a hard wow. I can not believe how good this book was, how it went from making me laugh to making me cry to making me feel like I could taste ash in my mouth. It was incredible, and so well written. Just...beyond belief good.

This book is about difficult truths. Don’t look away from them. Conversion therapy, suicide, abusive families, coercive relationships, hate crimes...it’s all covered in this book, and quite frankly, I’ve been waiting a long time to see a book that is this upfront and candid about the issues. Places like Nightlight Ministries exist, and queer kids are sent there daily. Some of them don’t come home. All of them don’t come back the same. It’s a horrifying reality, but we cannot look away from it.

The characters are so well developed, complex, and wonderfully, wonderfully queer (I mean, to be fair, who else would quote ‘Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?’ in a life or death situation?). I just wanted to meet all of them, be friends with them, making them hot cups of tea. When I’m sitting there reading a book wanting to meet the characters, it is something special. Connor is a sweet protagonist, and incredibly courageous, and all of the others are given so much attention and care from the author that they all feel so fully formed it boggles the mind.

The plot? Twisty, mysterious, and incredibly engaging. An absolute roller coaster in the worst and best possible ways, it took so many turns but they all made sense and were all dropped hints early on. Nothing came out of the blue. Relationship wise, there was no insta love- everything felt like it came from somewhere, even though the time period the book is set over was so short. It made complete sense, and worked really well given the circumstances.

Thank you to Netgalley for my review copy!
Profile Image for Ben Howard.
1,017 reviews115 followers
March 30, 2020
It was so kind of you to visit me in my loneliness

This book made me angry. Angry that conversion therapy still exists and is still legal in a lot of places. Angry that there are so many evil people in the world, that would gladly cause pain and suffering just because of peoples sexual orientation and gender.

Surrender Your Sons follows Connor who has been forced into a conversion camp, a secluded island off the coast of Costa Rica, by his mother and their Reverend. Run by radical christians, we see how a group of queer kids aged from 13-20 try to survive both mental and physical attacks.

It's a story of survival, of not letting others change who you are. Conner knows he's gay but has struggled with it long before arriving on the island. Being forced to hide his sexuality because of a hateful and neglectful mother has scarred Connor. The island may seem like an unlikely place, but it is there that he has to face the fact that just like his mother has been brainwashed by the Reverend and the church, he has been brainwashed by his need to be accepted by his mother.

However, not everything on the island is what it seems. The motives of the Reverend and the others in charge are unclear. And a hidden message given to Connor from someone he knew pre-island life hints at something sinister.

I have Surrender Your Sons preordered, so I can't wait to get my hands on the finished hardback, which looks gorgeous!, and give it a re-read.

Arc provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
March 19, 2020
I have a lot of difficult feelings surrounding Surrender Your Sons and that makes it impossible to decide on a rating just yet. I’ll have to think about it for a while longer—and I know that this book is going to stay with me a long, long time.

What I can say is this: Surrender Your Sons is gripping from the start and features a mystery that will keep you captivated until it’s solved, the writing is amazing and the story overall is so incredibly important. But at the same time this is such a heartbreaking story and, at times, it was really painful for me to read—it’s about queer teens being kidnapped and brought to conversion therapy camp, and the things that are done to them (inside and outside of camp) are just horrifying. And while I realise that this book wants to show how queer people stay strong despite all the hate, how they keep fighting and never giving up, for me, it was just too much.

So, for now, let me say: I admire Adam Sass a lot for writing such a necessary and yet devastating story—and I’m certainly keeping my eyes open for anything he’s going to publish next. But be aware that this is a book that explores a lot of dark themes and you have to be in the right state of mind to read it. It hurts me to see that there’s still so much hatred and injustice in the world, but I know there will always be people who keep fighting—like Connor and the rest of the campers—and I’m so thankful for that. The message overall is so important, too, and I appreciate it endlessly: whatever the world throws at us, we will never stop fighting for what is right—and we’ll never leave anyone behind. We’re stronger when we’re together.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 730 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.