Wow, this was an unexpected delight!
I decided to read this book as the main character (Cariad) is a 16 year old girl in foster care. I have previously fostered teenagers and so was intrigued to see how she would be portrayed.
Over the years Cariad has kept her defences up, no-one gets too close and so she won’t get hurt. She can’t conform to the rules set for her, and, actually when reading you can see partly why! I completely understood her viewpoint.
She is placed with an older Christian couple which from the outset seems like a poor match, Cariad is not religious at all and would rather be anywhere else. She has to meet with the local church Youth Fellowship, which she doesn’t hate, but aren’t exactly her type of friends.
She does have friends from school and even a “sort-of” boyfriend, so she does all the “usual” teenage things, staying out past curfew, drinking, kissing boys! But when another boy from school goes missing things change. There are rumours and gossip. Cariad goes to the cliffs (a place she likes to visit) and sees him there, things unravel and he asks her to keep his secret.
Two of her best friends are gay and in a relationship. A lot of the storyline moves to how living in such a religious society affects them and how some sectors of religion are homophobic. This has a major impact on where the plot is taken and how her friendships change. I was not expecting such an important and impactful storyline in this book, I thought it was just going to be a standard YA mystery! It shows how people can be torn between their faith and their sexuality and how communities and societies view them.
There is a darker side, towards the very end of the book which I won’t give away. Truly a rollercoaster of emotions whilst reading.
At the end the author has added a note signposting various LGBTQ organisations and LGBTQ Christian groups you can contact if you feel you need to, which I think is and excellent idea. As well as a note for straight/cisgender young people on how to support your LGBTQ friends and be a good ally – I will be taking inspiration from this to use in the school I work in with teenagers as a talking point.
The book was a fairly quick read, I read it in a day as I just couldn’t put it down.