Jesse Bryce finds himself drawn to the Pagan community on the outskirts of his small Oklahoma town. Maybe it’s the crush he has on Griffin Holyoke – a tall, dark haired boy with a tattoo on his back – or, maybe it’s that the Pagans accept Jesse for who he is, unlike his family or church who believe being gay is a sin.
When a man from the village is murdered while trying to prevent an assault on a girl from the town, Jesse is stunned by the lack of sympathy from the townspeople.
This was my first Robin Reardon book and I was amazed at how quickly I was drawn into the story and didn’t want to put it down until I finished. For those of you who’ve seen my reviews, I rarely venture into paranormal territory, but this doesn’t read like a typical paranormal because it is set in contemporary Oklahoma. The paranormal elements of the story are wrapped up in the Pagan community and to be honest, none of it seemed unbelievable.
This is a coming of age story with some romance woven in to it. Himlen, Oklahoma is a small town where the Christians live in the town proper while the Pagan community lives in a small village on the outskirts of town. Though the village kids attend the local schools, they are ostracized because of who they are. Rumors about them and their beliefs run rampant both in the schools and in the adult community.
The protagonist of the story is Jesse Bryce, a high school student who comes out of the closet to his best friend and family. In Jesse’s town people gossip six days a week only to spend Sundays sitting in church. It doesn’t take long for the rest of the town to know his sexuality and he finds himself the latest fascination of the local bullies. As he is now ostracized because of his sexuality, Jesse finds himself really looking at the kids from the Pagan village and finds himself fascinated with one of the boys, Griffin.
Jesse begins to visit the village, much to his parents’ dismay. As he asks questions, we learn about the similarities/differences between Paganism and Christianity. As a reader who knew little about Paganism, I liked how the author gave us the details about the religion by weaving them into the dialogue as Jesse’s curiosity had him seeking answers from the villagers about different aspects.
Jesse’s coming out to his parents and brother had such an authentic feel to it. I don’t know about all of you, but sometimes I get sick of all these stories where the entire family is jumping for joy to learn their child is gay – while that would be nice, in reality, most families struggle with this for various reasons. Without spoiling it for readers, Jesse is rightfully nervous about coming out.
My one complaint about this story is that I thought that the sex scenes were a bit too erotic for a book with a teenage protagonist. Ordinarily, I prefer books with characters under the age of 20 to be much more tame with the sex scenes. So while this book definitely seems to address many of the issues most young adult novels do, I don’t think this is a book for young adults. Just my opinion.
Overall, I really liked this story. I highly recommend it.