For those of you familiar with my Kennedy Stern series, you know I don't shy away from controversial subjects. Underage abortion, racism, police brutality, mental health issues, all these are fair game.
I follow a few different Facebook forums for authors and readers of Christian fiction, and every so often someone poses the question, What do you want to see more of in Christian fiction? And you know what? Readers are looking for deeper, messier, grittier reads about deeper, messier, grittier subjects. Which is one of the reasons why I wrote Straightened, a suspense novel about a boy whose father kicks him out of the home when he finds out he's gay.
I've become pretty good at author disclaimers by this point. "The political views of the characters do not necessarily reflect the political views of the author." That was an important one that showed up in Policed. If you follow this blog at all, you know that my Agent Ko spy series is meant for a mainstream audience, which means that squeamish readers should avoid it.
Well, it's time for another disclaimer. Here are the five different people who shouldn't read Straightened. No, I'm not being glib. I prize unity and relationships much more than political statements or sensationalism. If Straightened isn't the book for you, it's best that you know it now before you read it and get upset. And in case you were wondering, I made this book particularly able to stand alone in the series. You can go right from book three to book five if you want without every missing a beat so you don't have to read it at all. Conversely, you read Straightened first, and other than having to get acquainted with a few supporting characters, you'll be just fine.
That being said, I really and sincerely mean you probably want to skip Straightened if
1. You only like to read about characters who share your own political views. I guarantee that no matter what your views are on homosexuality, you will read compelling arguments from somebody who disagrees with you. No, I'm not saying this because I'm a mind reader. I'm saying this because I have characters on all sides of the homosexuality debate and tried to give them all equal time to share their opinions and views.
2. You are easily offended when others express a different opinion than yours. Whether your affirming or non-affirming, gay or straight, you will come across characters in Straightened who disagree with you. You will read about a dad who kicks his son out of the house for being gay. You will read about a Christian ally who hates the way the church has marginalized members of the LGTBQ community. You will read about a pastor who preaches against homosexuality from the pulpit but struggles to maintain a personal relationship with a gay foster son. You will read about a teen girl whose parents drove her to tragic and desperate measures as a direct result of religious zeal.
3. You're looking for a book that will change everybody's mind about homosexuality. Maybe you have friends on the other side of the homosexuality debate, and you wish you had a compelling read to offer them to get them to change their beliefs. Sorry, this probably isn't the book for you either. Know why? Because when writing Straightened, I never set out to change anybody's mind. I just wanted to get people thinking and talking about a subject that is too often ignored in churches today.
4. You like books that preach at you. I just said that my goal for Straightened was never to change anybody's mind. If you stand against homosexuality for religious reasons and only want to read a book with arguments against homosexual behavior, this is not it. Conversely, it's not a book that sets out to prove that the Bible accepts homosexual behavior either. Straightened poses questions without offering answers. If that bothers you, then you can find another book that more clearly lines up with your ideology.
I'd also like to remind you that Straightened is a suspense novel. That means it's going to have intrigue. It's going to have mystery. It's going to have police and detectives and crimes and danger. If you were hoping for a book that emphasizes a political view so much so that the plot fades into the background, this isn't your novel.
5. You only read books with a "tidy" form of Sunday-school Christianity. I just told you that Straightened was written to raise questions. Does God make people gay? Is same-sex attraction a sin? If God doesn't want people to be gay, what does that mean for the boy who begs God to make him straight but his prayers aren't answered? Can two Christians minister together when they have completely different views on homosexuality? Is the homosexuality debate important enough to break fellowship, destroy families, or end relationships over? Can you love someone with a different view than your own without compromising your own conscience? Hopefully, these will be the kind of questions you'll be wondering as you read this suspense novel. If you're not ready to confront dilemmas like these, you might want to stick with more conventional Christian novels, and I'm not being facetious when I say you have my blessing to do so.
On the other hand, if you like mysteries about messy people with messy dilemmas, if you're ready to know more about people on all sides of the homosexuality debate, or if you just love a good suspense novel and are willing to stretch your mind a little to consider some of these questions, Straightened just might be the book you're looking for.
Why don't you read it and find out? Want to skip this one? No problem! You can jump right into book five, Turbulence, without missing anything in the overall Kennedy Stern storyline.