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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My Review of, "No Going Back" by Jonathan Langford

  • Title: No Going Back
  • Author: Jonathan Langford
  • Paperback: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Zarahemla Books (October 5, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0978797191
  • ISBN-13: 978-0978797195

  • Product Description
  • A gay teenage Mormon growing up in western Oregon in 2003. His straight best friend. Their parents. A typical LDS ward, a high-school club about tolerance for gays, and a proposed anti-gay-marriage amendment to the state constitution. In NO GOING BACK, these elements combine in a coming-of-age story about faithfulness and friendship, temptation and redemption, tough choices and conflicting loyalties.

  • The issue of gay marriage and abuse of gay teenagers is a very hot topic right now. There are many heated feelings about the issues on both sides. This is why this novel is so timely and needed. The LDS church does not believe in gay marriage. There are many gay members of the church, that struggle daily with their same-sex attraction and "living" their religion . That means that we don't hate them, shun them or attack them verbally or physically. They need our love and understanding like any other member of our church.

  • "No Going Back" addresses the issue of a young, male, LDS member who comes out saying he is gay. Jonathan does a good job of showing the intense feelings and fears of the main character, Paul, and how others react to him. It was heartbreaking reading how the kids in his ward, the scout council and his own father, treated him once they found out Paul was gay. He also wasn't treated very well, by other gays,when they wanted Paul to leave the church and he would not leave. This is a novel full of many conflicts and not many of them are resolved during the book.

  • This is the way that Jonathan describes his book:
  • "Don't know if this will interest anyone, but my novel No Going Back is a coming-of-age story about a Mormon teen who is conflicted between his religious beliefs and his gay feelings.... I don't know if you'd call it a YA novel or an adult novel with a YA protagonist, but most of the book is written from the point of view of the 15-/16-year old protagonist and his (straight) best friend."

  • My recommendation is this, before having a teen read the book, an adult should read it first. There has been some concern about letting gay, LDS young people read this book. Again, the child and parent must make this decision. The concerns have been about this book influencing someone towards suicide. I think that is too strong of a statement for this book, not saying that this couldn't happen. I do feel that this book could be a good tool for families when discussing this issue; especially those families who have a teen who is dealing with same sex attraction

  • All of this is such a personal thing. Every teen and family will face this challenge differently. Jonathan Langford has shown us one person's story and how he dealt with it. I must also say, the story is very well written; especially the main character Paul and his compassionate Bishop.

  • There is strong language and discussions about same sex attraction that some people may not be comfortable reading. This novel is, as other reviewers have stated, "gritty, brutally honest and disturbing". I was touched by the story of Paul and Chad (His straight life-long friend) and how they came to value their friendship. It truly should not matter,when it comes to friendship, who others love. We can still be friends and not judgmental. Even though we may not agree with others beliefs or practices, we need to remain free from causing pain to others.

  • I know that others may not agree with me in this review, but I have seen friends struggle with same-sex attraction. I have seen them and the pain they have felt at others hands. I feel that this is the main message that can be found in , "No Going Back". Ultimately the choice is up to you how you perceive this novel. If you care about the topic or want to get a new insight into what it is like to be a gay LDS teen, read this novel by Jonathan Langford.


  1. This sounds fantastic. I love reading heartfelt stories like this. I love the controversy too. Everyone should read this story, especially teens since they need to be aware how their words and actions hurt others who are different. Thanks for posting!

  2. Sheila,

    Thanks for your thoughtful review. I'd like to point out that your quote from me above on how I described my book was from a discussion of gay YA books at Amazon.com, where I knew I was talking to an audience that was likely to be hostile toward the Church's position on this issue. I didn't know if they would want to read No Going Back or not -- and from the reactions I received, some of those who did read it disliked it very much, mostly because they wanted Paul to leave the Church instead of staying in it.

    Most of the comments about the book influencing young gay teenagers toward suicide have also been from gays who dislike the Church's position on this issue and feel that gay teenagers should be encouraged to leave the Church -- a position I don't endorse. I agree, though, that parents should read the book before giving it to their teenage children to review. Actually, my intended audience in writing the book was primarily adults, who might be prompted to think about how we can provide stronger support to LDS youngsters who are experiencing these challenges. I also think there are parts of the book (like the relationship between the bishop and his wife) that are more likely to appeal to adults than to teenagers.

    I appreciate the fact that you mentioned the theme of friendship between Paul and Chad. A lot of the reviews of No Going Back have focused on the issue of homosexuality -- understandably so. But on a human level, I think the book is at least as much about growing up, friendship, gaining a testimony, and navigating conflicting demands and expectations from friends, peers, Church members, nonmembers, and others. Those are the kinds of choices everyone has to make as teenagers, whether gay or not.