cover image The God Box

The God Box

Alex Sanchez. Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, $16.99 (272pp) ISBN 978-1-4169-0899-9

Sanchez's (Getting It) latest exploration of the lives of gay teenagers centers on high school senior Paul, a devout Christian teen who lives in Texas with his widowed father, takes his longtime girlfriend out for chaste dates every Saturday and saves written prayers to Jesus in a ""God Box"" his father carved for him. (""What would it feel like to have a boyfriend? I wondered.... Almost immediately, a wave of guilt washed over me. Once again I wrote down my same prayer: Dear Lord, please take away these feelings. You know which ones."") But Manuel, a new, openly gay student who argues that Christianity and homosexuality are not at odds, forces Paul to rethink his stance and reassess who he really is. Some readers may tire of Paul's exhaustive analysis of Bible versus, as he argues with himself, Manuel, his girlfriend and his Bible study group at school, but the extent of his spiritual agony rings true for someone whose lifelong beliefs are being challenged. While the characterizations of Paul and Manuel (who, as he uses the Bible to counter Paul's Biblical arguments against homosexuality, can seem too good to be true) are strong, the secondary characters can seem comparatively flat. But readers seeking well-reasoned and well-researched Christian arguments for accepting gays-not to mention a heartrending coming-of-age story-should readily embrace Paul's journey. Ages 12-up.