Review: Flag on the Play by Sherrie Henry

Sixteen-year-old football punter Liam Hartley has come to terms with being gay, but it isn’t something his religious and conservative community will ever accept. He’s isolated in his Midwest town until Cody Williams transfers to his school from Chicago. A proud bisexual young man, Cody shows Liam he isn’t alone—or abnormal—and they soon become more than friends.

Despite the intimate, secret world he shares with Cody, Liam is in pain. The hatred spewed by bigots has an effect on Liam, even if Cody carefully hides their relationship with a pretend girlfriend. Liam is jealous—he doesn’t want to have to share Cody, and he doesn’t want to have to live in shame. Cutting himself seems to be the only way to deal with everything he’s suffering, and things only get worse when Liam and Cody are outed in front of the school. And even if they can make it through the hardship, they know their relationship is destined to end when Cody’s family returns to the city.

Liam can’t go back to facing the hatred and religious judgment by himself. He won’t survive it. Somehow, Liam and Cody must secure a future for both of them, and that means finding a way to stay together.

I’m really trying not to have this concept that all small towns in America are filled with bigoted a-holes but it is really hard when all of the fiction I read has this one theme. It always feels like it is portrayed as the norm and that there are really no decent people in these places, unless of course, they have moved from a progressive and large city, to grace the quaint but ignorant town with their liberal presence.

I honestly don’t buy this trope, and it’s making me weary. I know small towns are a lot more insular. They have to be. They’re isolated, with smaller populations, with fewer places to go, and less to do. But I’m not convinced that these places cannot be filled with good people, who mostly don’t give much of a shit whom other people sleep with and who are not all religious extremists with no concept of goodwill towards others. I just don’t buy that there are no liberal or progressive small towns, or that there is no mixture of these differences. Don’t buy it at all. It’s painful to read. There are shitty people everywhere, but surely, in little towns, all over the great U.S. of A. there are people who are good and kind, and loving , even with someone who is different. Maybe it’s that I always pick up stories that are set up in the “Bible-Belt” (Yes I know about this, my partner is from Kansas). I dunno. It just feels like an excuse to make small towns look like shitty places to be. If I’m wrong, call me out. It’s just how I feel right now.

So after that enormous rant, let me tell you what I liked about this story. I liked the dynamic between Liam and Cody. I enjoyed their relationship building, and Liam’s understanding of himself and his place in the world. I enjoyed that Cody was self assured, confident, and enjoyed being with Liam. I thought these two worked well together, and had a sweet relationship that was built on mutual attraction, and a desire to be happy and make each other happy. Their friendship was strong, even with some drama of jealousy and having to hide. I connected with them both as characters, and was invested in their outcome.

I just wish it didn’t come at the expense of this entire town who apparently were all a-holes and/or religious zealots, or hidden deeply in the closet and of no support either moral or emotional.

This story has a bit of everything in terms of angst and drama. There is self harm, a hate crime, school bullying, and some good old fashion prayer. I will say, that while there is religious extremism, this isn’t an anti-religion story. There is reference to other Christian churches which are tolerant, accepting, and embracing of LGBT people.

Above rant aside, I thought this book was sweet, and I’d be interested in more stories by this author. The writing style was pleasing, and the language was clear. There was strong character development and a somewhat believable resolution.

I’d recommend this for readers who enjoy a bit of angst, with their romance, but also be aware that there is some violence in this story.

A review copy was provided for an honest opinion

Find on Harmony Ink Press or Goodreads!

No comments:

Post a Comment