River Falls Journal Review

From Dave Wood's book review column in the River Falls (Wisconsin) Journal, March 19, 2010.

River Falls author Jonathan Langford just dropped off an interesting young adult novel, “No Going Back” (ZarahemlaBooks.com, $16.95).

I’m not well-acquainted with that subgenre, but my wife taught it for years. She’s retired now, so I put her to work reviewing Langford’s novel. Here are the results:

“The struggles of gay teens have been dealt with in several readable and recommendable young adult novels, such as Hartinger’s ‘Geography Club’ and M. E. Kerr’s ‘Deliver us From Evie.’

“Langford offers another sympathetic look at the difficulties homosexual teens face with peers, social life, parents, coming out and thinking about their futures. But he expands the usual perspectives.

“Main character Paul Ficklin, aiming to achieve priesthood in the Mormon (LDS) church, grapples with his promise to avoid behavior that church regards as sin. Readers of any faith that disparages homosexuality will be interested in the discussions Paul has with his bishop (who is also his best friend Chad’s father), his LDS peers, and parents in that community, which show how and how not to help lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgendered and straight teens come to terms with faith and sexuality issues.

“Langford uses multiple viewpoints — Paul’s mother, Chad, Chad’s mother and father — to help readers see that everyone’s set of personal issues complicates responding humanely to the needs of gay teens.

“Chad’s mother, unhappy that her husband’s new status as bishop keeps him very busy, at first is incensed to realize that her son has a gay best friend and resents her husband’s not being there to help her deal with that.

“Chad decides, after witnessing how fast high school peers are to ridicule and reject Paul, to jeopardize his own peer standing to maintain the friendship.

“And so on. Though the novel emphasizes how loving and supportive adults can help gay teens steer a clearer course through high school years, it also exposes the range of responses one will find among reasonable as well as judgmental people and encourages readers to take their cue from the better examples.”