Playing by the Book by S. Chris Shirley
Published by Riverdale Avenue Books 6/11/2014
Jake, a naïve sheltered teen from Alabama, lives by the Book – the Bible. His father, The Preacher, wants Jake to follow in his footsteps. Fortunately, Jake’s love of journalism has him headed in another direction, headed to New York City and Columbia University’s prestigious summer journalism program. Needless to say, Jake’s entry into New York is eye-opening. From homeless people on the streets to his hot neighbor Sam and gay marriage, his world view gets turned upside down. Most importantly though, how can he follow the Book when he can’t stop himself from fantasizing about Sam? This summer, Jake is about to find out if he can be true to himself and still play by the Book or least part of it.
S. Chris Shirley’s first novel details Jake’s struggle to come to terms with his sexuality and his Christianity. A beautiful and profound story that asks readers to question their own beliefs and their ability to look at people beyond the labels, beyond what we “see.” Mr. Shirley’s powerful prose draws us into Jake’s world – a world of fundamentalist Christians, a world where people must follow the book, a world that makes me cringe. In this world, Jake tries so hard not to be gay that even his part is straight. Jake’s authentic voice underscores the reality that many GLBT teens live with and struggle against every day. Though Sam, the wise, hot, Jewish, gay friend, puts it best, “How can it be a mistake, brah? It’s who you are.” Mr. Shirley, drawing from his own experience, resolves the gay/Christian dilemma superbly and leaves Jake and readers with the knowledge that interpreting the bible, like the constitution, evolves over time. An excellent story with an insightful message – perfect for all teens, especially Christian teens.