Reviewed by Becca
TITLE: Saving Julian
AUTHOR: Mason Stokes
PUBLISHER: Pride Publishing
LENGTH: 226 pages
RELEASE DATE: April 11, 2017
Paul believes that homosexuality is an illness. But when he tries to cure himself, and others, he learns just how stubborn desire can be.
Paul Drucker has made a name for himself telling young gay men that he can cure them of their ‘sinful desires’. Trouble is, he’s all too familiar with those desires himself, which leads him to Julian Evans, a male ‘escort’ he finds online. Paul tells himself, and Julian, that he simply needs an assistant, someone to help him on an upcoming lecture tour. The reality, of course, is quite different, and when the media discovers them together, Paul tries to straighten up his image by starting an ex-gay group at his church.
Which is where Julian’s roommate, Aaron, comes in. Eager to expose the ex-gay movement for the sham that it is, Aaron goes undercover in Paul’s conversion group, posing as a gay man hoping to be ‘cured’. However, things get complicated, and more than a little strange, when Aaron meets the other members of the group—a motley assortment of queers struggling to reconcile their desires with their faith, and with their families. Will Paul’s techniques, which include group showers, lessons in manly walking, and something called ‘holding therapy’, lead to newly created heterosexuals? To tragedy? Maybe even to love?
Reader Advisory: This book includes references to child abuse, suicide and sexual abuse.
If you read the blurb for this book above, you will know there are triggers. If you read the blurb itself, it will let you know the whole book is a trigger for anyone who has ever dealt with conversion therapy or anything related to it. Please keep these in mind. I have to say, before I get to into this review, that the book as a whole, was well written. I see what the author was trying to convey with this story and I commend him for taking on such a difficult subject. Because I have got to tell you, I have never in all the years, in all the books I have read, had a book make me rage such as this one. I mean serious pissed off. I have read things on conversion therapy, talked to people who have been through it, and although what was in this book was ‘mild’ compared to some I’ve heard about, it’s still there and it’s still horrible. I endlessly amazed, for lack of a better word, at the level of hatred, bigotry and cruelty that one human can do to another. Or have for another. And it makes me ashamed of fellow human beings and ashamed of people who act this way and call themselves Christians. And no, I’m not going to get on some religious soapbox here or anything, but reading this book just makes me realize more how truly some people just suck. And how disgusted I am by a lot of the human race.
The story is told from the viewpoint of most of the characters at some point. Or the main ones at least. Julian moves in with Aaron and as Aaron gets to know him, he realizes through some tells of Julian’s that Julian isn’t quite as happy as he portrays in his stories. Being an escort isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. And Aaron decides to figure something out to save Julian and make him happy. But a meeting with this new guy Paul, sets Julian farther apart and Aaron decides to get to the bottom of what is really going on. Paul is basically a closeted gay man, who has affairs on the side of his marriage, who uses ‘massage’ terms and claims of father son love to molest his foster son, but hides behind God and his church to condemn gays and try to convert them because what they are doing is ‘sinful’ and ‘wrong’. After seeing who Julian has spent time with, Aaron is determined to get Julian away from Paul. He goes undercover to try to find a way to bring Paul down and after a suicide occurs from one of the members of this ‘group’, Aaron is more than determined. He is also determine to show the members of this group that being gay isn’t wrong or bad. And if to love another of the same sex feels natural, then it is.
There were so many characters covered in this book. Hands down, off the bat, I hate Paul. I loathe him and everything he stands for, and just writing about his character fills me with such rage, all I see is red. He is a coward. And he is the worst kind of coward. I can’t dwell on him any longer.
The characters who deserve recognition are Julian, Aaron, and most importantly Jacob. Jacob wasn’t mentioned in the blurb and I don’t want to give too much away for anyone, but Jacob was the one that truly stuck out to me. After dealing with abuse from that asshole, he dealt with so much confusion. One minute he felt like he was loved by his foster father, the next he was hated. And as a teen, going through so many hormones, to be abused then rejected and treated like trash for being gay, causes so many more mixed emotions. And Jacob took my heart. He tried to be what he father wanted so he could be loved, but he was miserable. And when it came time for everything to come to the light, he is so brave. He has to deal with anxiety, loss, betrayal. Has to face the fact that he really was abused and not ‘being loved’ as a father should a son. And I love him. I know in this world there are so many kids who face this every day, and my heart bleeds for them. My heart weeps at what they endure but also weeps in joy at how brave they have to be just to survive.
Aaron deserves recognition to me, because of how brave he was to go undercover to try to expose what was going on. And for standing up to Paul and his crap for what he was putting others through. For the people in today’s world who take on this endeavor, are so courageous to me for coming to the aid of those who need standing for.
Julian is the other that I admire in this book, because of what he too went through with Paul. In the end, he took a risk and moved on. And that takes more courage than anything. To finally let go and try again, what guts.
I don’t know what to tell you as far as reading this book. Part of me wants to say read it because in spite of the subject matter, it is a good book. But the other part of me is hesitant to recommend it because of the subject matter. It truly is hard for me to say. I hope the author understands that I think his writing is excellent. I am just having a hard time because of the anger. I don’t know. I will leave the decision to you all. All I have to say is this. In the end, be happy with who you are. If that means you are gay, then f#&k the haters and be who you are. And know that out there in this world there are people who love you no matter what.