Book review: Caught in the Crossfire, by Juliann Rich

Caught in the CrossfireRich, Juliann. Caught in the Crossfire. Bold Strokes Books. 2014. $11.95. 192 p. PB. 978-1-6263-9070-6.

As Jonathan spends his seventh summer at Spirit Lake Bible Camp, his life becomes complicated. Ian, a new camper sent to the camp by his foster parents, shows Jonathan that he isn’t like the other guys at camp. As Ian gladly chooses his sexual orientation despite his faith, Jonathan is unsure, caught between what he was taught is right and what he feels is right.

This well-written summer camp story is complete with all the typical camp hijinks, s’mores, pranks, and plenty of mosquitoes. The easy pace and conversational style of writing fit perfectly with the camp atmosphere, and the characters are believable and likable. The plot–while being the standard “protagonist discovers he’s gay and doesn’t want anyone to find out”–is well-developed, with the added twist of the protagonist’s Christian beliefs.

As a survivor of many summers of Christian camp in the Midwest, I was a bit confounded, however, by the author’s depictions. This camp seems like a stereotypical summer camp with a few serious Bible-based discussions thrown in. Alcohol is available for kids to sneak out of the cafeteria, one boy smuggles in a huge stack of porn, and the campers go skinny dipping. One girl, homeschooled with her nine siblings, is expected to “dance seductively” in a play that campers are performing on Parents Day. There is only one brief mention of a Sunday service, rather than daily or twice-daily services typical at Christian camps. The story didn’t ring true to me for a Bible camp; instead it represents a standard summer camp with a few Christian discussions.

The conflict between those who believe that being gay is a sin and those who do not, however, rang true as did Jonathan’s internal struggles with wanting to please God and struggling with his feelings for Ian. Because this is still a major issue in American society, Caught, while not filling an empty niche, fits well alongside The God Box by Alex Sanchez and The Order of the Poison Oak by Bret Hartinger.

This book may be better received in conservative communities than other current young adult novels featuring LGBT characters and is recommended for public libraries to add to their young adult collection.

Jenni Frencham, Librarian

Cesar Chavez Middle School, Hayward (CA)


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