I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Rapture Practice by Aaron Hartzler
Also by this author: What We Saw
on April 9th 2013
Genres: Juvenile Nonfiction, Family, Parents, Social Issues, Homosexuality, Biography & Autobiography, Religious, Christian, Family & Relationships, Dating & Sex
Format: eARC, Paperback
Buy on Amazon
Sometimes salvation is found in the strangest places: a true story. Aaron Hartzler grew up in a home where he was taught that at any moment the Rapture could happen. That Jesus might come down in the twinkling of an eye and scoop Aaron and his family up to heaven. As a kid, Aaron was thrilled by the idea that every moment of every day might be his last one on planet Earth.But as Aaron turns sixteen, he finds himself more attached to his earthly life and curious about all the things his family forsakes for the Lord. He begins to realize he doesn't want the Rapture to happen just yet--not before he sees his first movie, stars in the school play, or has his first kiss. Eventually Aaron makes the plunge from conflicted do-gooder to full-fledged teen rebel.Whether he's sneaking out, making out, or playing hymns with a hangover, Aaron learns a few lessons that can't be found in the Bible. He discovers that the best friends aren't always the ones your mom and dad approve of, and the tricky part about believing is that no one can do it for you.In this funny and heartfelt coming-of-age memoir, debut author Aaron Hartzler recalls his teenage journey to find the person he is without losing the family that loves him. It's a story about losing your faith and finding your place and your own truth--which is always stranger than fiction.
I have literally had Rapture Practice by Aaron Hartzler on my TBR for over a year. I mean, my actual write it in the composition this is serious I mean business TBR. What is not to intrigue me? Hartzler’s memoir promises to be about a person growing up in an evangelical family who happens to be gay. I am the kind of person who loves reading young adult books both fiction and non-fiction that have something to do with religion and whether or not the person keeps the faith or decides to leave whatever church they are in. I am not quite sure why the relationship that other people have with religion fascinates me so much – but I am positive that Hartlzer’s memoir, Rapture Practice: A True Story About Growing Up Gay In An Evangelical Family delivered exactly what I wanted!
The subtitle of Rapture Practice essentially tells you what Aaron Hartzler’s memoir is all about. It is about him growing up gay in an evangelical family. So, going in you kind of know what to expect. Aaron’s dad is a professor at a Bible college and his mom is a domestic engineer — or what is more commonly known as a stay at home mom. The book opens up with Aaron heading to Tennessee to visit his grandparents. His Nanny, FYI, is awesome. Anyways, we learn about his favorite cousin who tells him she’s going to go see E.T. at the movies. Aaron is surprised at this because his parents do not go to the movie theater- the trailers might be bad. But this sort of starts all kinds of temptations for things that are ‘of the world’ for Aaron. We also see that Aaron’s mom runs a children’s group called the Good News Club which is dedicated towards getting children to be saved or if you are not evangelical – getting children to accept Jesus Christ as their savior. Rapture Practice goes on to detail Aaron’s love of theater, the authoritarian style of parenting that his dad employs, and his transferring from one Christian school to an even more strict Christian school. There’s also bits and pieces of Aaron’s dating life – how he’s dating girls but not really feeling anything – and also his friend – most importantly Bradley, whom Aaron cares about more than the girls he dates.
So, okay, I should confess that I grew up in the evangelical faith. I used to go to church camp and youth group and vacation Bible school on top of Sunday school. I knew the rules of Underground Church (a game about the persecution of Christians and remaining strong in your faith against the KGB) inside and out. However, unlike Aaron, my parents were not authoritarian at all. I mean, I could listen to secular music and go to dances and I went to public school. Really, my family was more of the go to church to get the kids out of our hair and surrounded by good influences type. I was into church off and on through parts of college, but always had these questions and doubts. I won’t go much more into depth because I believe that faith or lack thereof is a very personal thing — as personal as who you vote for. What I will say is that I could relate and recognize much of Aaron’s experience in Rapture Practice. I can remember at camp not having dances and being perplexed by that because we had dances at my public school and also because there were dances on Bug Juice. I remember also at camp how the counselors were not allowed to listen to secular music on their boom boxes (that is how old I am) but one cool counselor had the NSYNC cd and she would play ‘Just Got Paid’. It was like a big deal. I also remember, like Aaron, those come to Jesus sermons where the true believers would be sobbing over imagined sins and me, well, I would just sit there feeling awkward. He goes into being a little kid and getting saved not because of the Jesus thing, but because of this deep, deep fear of hell. Y’all, I had hell nightmares as a kid thanks to Sunday School. So, yes, there’s so much I could relate to while reading.
On top of that, Hartlzer’s debut novel and memoir is very readable and accessible. He does not come across as judgmental of his parents’ faith in the book. Rather, he comes across as someone who chafes against the rules, and I respect that. He describes the religion as an all or nothing faith where you can’t just pick and choose. And sorry to spoil, but he says that ultimately there were things that he couldn’t get behind and so because of this all or nothing and the questions he had, he left. Again, another thing I could relate to. I thought this book was just so well written. It is clearly organized. There’s a lot of Rapture Practice where you just kind of grip the book with anger over the punishments Hartzler experiences, even though they do come from a place of genuine love. I think that for me personally, it was hard to read those sections, but because I was raised in a similar faith (Baptist) I got it. I got why his parents were so authoritative. It comes from a place of true belief and genuine concern for Aaron’s soul.
I know I am not going super in depth – but there’s this afterword at the end of the paperback of Rapture Practice that is essentially updated from the eARC sitting on my Kindle. That afterword talks about the criticism he’s received from adults and not youth readers that there’s not a lot of “gay content” in Rapture Practice. I love how Hartzler addresses this. He says there is gay content on every single page, given that the book is about him and he is a Gay man. I love this. I mean, there’s this tendency to think of gay stories as strictly coming out stories and there is not a coming out story in this book. There’s subtle hints dropped about Hartzler’s sexuality, but if not for the subtitle it would not be super obvious. BUT I think that does not serve to invalidate his experience and I think that gay teenagers in similar situations will relate to this book.
In all, this is one of the better memoirs I’ve read in a really long time. Kudos to Hartzler for raw honesty, but also kind treatment of his family and friends, even if he’s at odds with them.