Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Book Review: "A Mark on My Soul" by Jordon Greene

Sometimes when reading a book the plot is so unrealistic that I can't stretch my disbelief as far as I need to in order to appreciate it. Other times, however, the plot of a novel is far too realistic that it makes me sad and/or angry because reality is far too depressing.

Reading Jordon Greene's A Mark on My Soul left me angry and sad, not because I didn't like it or it wasn't well-written, but rather the plot was far too real, far too common, and that's really depressing.

Noah Andrews has just started his senior year of high school in North Carolina. He's thinking about college, particularly how much he'd love to attend the University of Illinois, which has a terrific architecture school. He's thinking about what life will be like if his two best friends wind up at their first-choice schools, which are totally different from his. More than that, however, he's thinking about how to tell his parents, his friends, everybody, his big secret: he's gay.

"Dammit, it should be easy to come out. I mean, Mom and Dad aren't a problem. I'm not worried they'll disown me or tell me some crap like I'm going to hell or take away my stuff. I'm just afraid they'll look at me differently. I don't know, like I'll be their gay son Noah instead of just Noah. I just want to be Noah Andrews, the simple, slightly nerdy, socially awkward guy, minus the big-ass secret."

After many false starts, Noah finds the courage to tell his two best friends, then his parents, and then he feels comfortable enough to share his secret with those who follow him on social media. Sure, he gets some pathetic responses from a few people, but for the most part, people praise his bravery for finally being able to tell the truth about himself.

On the same night he publicly comes out, he receives an email from a classmate who says that he admires him and, more importantly, that he likes him. He even thinks Noah is hot. At first the boy is too afraid to reveal his identity, because he's not ready to come out. But the more they correspond, the closer they get despite the anonymity, so they finally make a plan to meet. And just when Noah feels like he has it all, the prejudice and homophobia of the real world intrude in far too many ways.

Even though you may be able to see where the plot of A Mark on My Soul is going, I decided to be fairly vague so you can let it unfold for you. There are definitely elements of Love, Simon in this story (at one point Noah even quotes Jennifer Garner's pivotal scene from that movie). However, much of the plot is far more troubling, raw, and disturbing than that, and that's because the things that happen actually happen every day in our country.

Greene is a tremendously talented writer and he has created characters that I cared about, characters whose happiness I found myself invested in. There were a number of times where I wanted to shake some of the characters and make them see the truth that was happening right in front of them, but that doesn't happen in real life either.

A Mark on My Soul isn't a feel-good read, but it is a vitally important one. I hope this book makes people realize that the world may be better for LGBT kids than it was 5, 10, 20 years ago, but there is still more homophobia, more hatred, even close to home, than there should be. It needs to stop. Now.

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