This is another book we read in my YA Lit class, and I’m going to admit that at first I was not crazy about it. While I still argue that there are a lot of things that it could have done better, what really made me decide that I enjoyed this book after all was the discussion it sparked with my peers.
Today’s book is Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert. And it actually hits pretty close for me because it’s about a town where everyone is intensely religious and no one ever leaves. And I imagine that’s true of a lot of small USA towns, but it’s also true of my hometown. If you leave, you’re in the minority and if you don’t believe in God, there’s a pretty good chance you’re an outcast. (I’m probably going to get a lot of emails over this. Oh well.)
The hero of our story is 17 year old Braden Raynor. He goes to youth group, loves baseball, and has a crush on a girl named Maddie. Typically nice-teenager-boy things. His mother isn’t around and his older brother, Trey, packed up and moved to New York to get away from the small town life. So it’s just Braden and his dad, Mart, who has a baseball talk show on the radio. And then uh-oh, suddenly Mart is arrested for allegedly murdering a cop. Yeah, it’s very jarring and sort of happens almost right away. Since Braden is only 17, his older brother is asked to come back so that there is an adult in the picture while Mart awaits trial in prison.
And oh my goodness, the familial drama in this book is astounding. Trey comes across as kind of a douchey character, but there is just so much going on inside his head that we don’t get to see because Braden is our narrator and is sort of self-centered. I mean, he’s 17 and his world has just been shattered, that’s sort of understandable. But I almost really wish that this story was in 3rd person so we could get more of a look into Trey’s head. I relate to Trey very strongly, but I can’t say too much without giving the entire book away.
The last thing I am going to say about Conviction is that the characters seemed to have a really warped concept of God, and I can also kind of relate to that. I was having a conversation with a friend the other day about religion and the concept of God and he pointed out to me that humans often impose their own beliefs onto what they think God should be instead of what/who he is really is. He hasn’t read Conviction, but this really got my wheels turning because that is so true of the characters in this book. Braden constantly makes little “deals” with God and treats him like a genie and although it is never explicitly said by anyone in the town, you kind of get the overwhelming sense (based on a few instances in the book) that they are the kind of people that thinks God hates homosexuals. Regardless of what you think about homosexuality in any case, if you believe in the Christian God then you can’t believe that he hates homosexuals. God loves everyone, that’s kind of his deal.
Read this, then have your friends read it, and have some discussions over it. It’s in your best interests.