I had a new author recommended to me through Kindle Unlimited.

I looked at There Goes Sunday School because of the title. The description pulled me in:

“In sixteen-year-old Mike Hernandez’s life, only one thing is clear: Gay is NOT okay. His family’s life revolves around the church, a church run by the vocally intolerant Pastor Myers, so Mike has resolved to spend his life in the closet. His only escape—besides the occasional, anonymous gay make-out session—is his art. He pours his complicated emotions into risqué drawings he keeps in a secret sketchbook. A sketchbook he carries everywhere.

When his sketchbook goes missing in the middle of Sunday school, Mike is sure his life is over. He’s going to be outed, ostracized by their community, condemned by the pastor, maybe even homeless. What’s worse, the pastor’s son, Chris, suddenly seems hell-bent on adopting Mike and his friends and he has no idea why.

When an awkward confrontation with Chris leads to an unexpected kiss instead of a much-expected punch, Mike’s world is turned upside down. As their friendship grows and faith is questioned, Mike may be forced to choose between the comfortable life he’s always lived and a chance at the love he never thought he deserved.

The first thing I think of with these books is that they are so sweet. The friendships in them (not just the romantic ones) are so positive and supportive. Then I remember that a lot of really bad things happen in these books.

There is violent homophobia, abuse, sexual assault, eating disorders, drug use, and suicide attempts. But somehow the characters seem so real that you just love them and how they are making their way in a world that isn’t always being the place they want it to be. Maybe it is because that even when bad things happen in the end they are doing ok. They may not be where they want to be but they are ok.

Here Goes Nothing continues the story of Mike and Chris. There were several years between the publication of the two books. I’m glad I was able to read them back to back to get the complete story at once.

Lock & West is an earlier book about a boy who has moved across the country following several family tragedies. He is dealing with his mother’s grief while trying to hold his family together and start at a new school. West has totally different family issues but no less trauma.

If “totally sweet but actually pretty dark” is your kind of thing, try these books out.