This book was a surprise. I got it from Netgalley & Curiosity Quills Press in exchange for a fair and honest review. Once I had obtained it, I wasn’t sure I really wanted to read it. Even once I started it, I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about it. As I kept reading, however, I saw a lot of my younger self in Piper, including my journey with some truths involved in my faith. In the end, I really truly loved this little book and the story it told.
The book is about Piper Ryan, whose father runs a church which ends up being pretty similar to the Westboro Baptist Church: protesting others’ sexuality with horrific slogans and judgment. Piper, going against many things she’s been raised to believe, auditions for her high school’s production of Romeo and Juliet. In a twist, she’s cast as Romeo, opposite another female student playing Juliet. As the production goes on, Piper finds herself doing lots of things she’s not “supposed” to, including making friends who are gay. In this process, she finds herself questioning her own beliefs and ideas. When the production is canceled due to complaints about Piper’s casting, she must decide whether she will fight this ban or accept it.
This book reminded a lot of the movie Saved! Piper is very similar to Mary in that movie in the way she begins challenging things she’s held dear for a long time, though this book didn’t feel quite as satirical as the movie. Piper’s voice is real, especially as she struggles internally over her part in her father’s church and over questions of how God could create something God doesn’t love. Having been raised Catholic, my upbringing wasn’t the same as Piper’s, but I always had trouble subscribing to some of the tenets of my faith, like the judgment of people who belong to the LGBTQ community. It didn’t sit right with me. I didn’t believe (and still don’t) that God could create someone to feel that way and then judge them for it. I didn’t (and don’t) believe that God would think love is evil, no matter what form it takes. I certainly don’t believe God expects us to hate people for who they love. As I read Piper’s journey in this book, it very much mirrored my own, and felt extremely authentic. Her struggle over what to stand for, and how it would impact her relationship with her family, was also very realistic to me. Even the ending felt like life: it was a work in progress. I also liked that the book didn’t feel extremely judgmental of Piper’s family background. Instead, it felt like it highlighted some nuances of it, and left hope within the portraiture.
In addition to Piper, I found myself enjoying some of the other characters: her friend Tony, her best friend Jodi, and her love interest Dylan. Not all of them were as fully fleshed out as they could be, but they definitely weren’t high school stereotypes either. They all had their own feelings and their own secrets, and they all played a part in Piper’s ongoing struggle. The only thing I didn’t love about this book was that I felt like sometimes chapters ended in weird places, but overall, I highly recommend this book if you’re looking for a quick read with a great, realistic protagonist, with thoughts on faith and life thrown in for good measure. Also, an added bonus: if you’re doing the Read Harder 2016 Challenge, this book would fit in with the “read about a book religion” item.
Ratings: 4 out of 5
Have you read This Above All? Will you? Let me know below!!