The God Box by Alex Sanchez 2007
IQ "not every single soul Jesus reached out to is listed in the Gospels. And how do we know that some of the people who are mentioned weren't gay." Angie pg. 15
The God Box is one of the most quotable books ever, so I just picked one of the first ones I saw that resonated with me, but there are so many other incredible quotes in this book! I love this book. It fulfills a much needed niche in the issue that so many teens struggle over which is; can you remain true to your faith and be homosexual? My answer (and the book's) is YES! This book is a lot like a how-to guide in that the author takes every excuse Christians give that homosexuality is bad and completely trounces it with facts and Bible verses to back him up. He does this through a delightful cast of characters.
In The God Box Paul (really Pablo but he wants to be called Paul) is a senior in high school and he's had the same girlfriend, Angie, since middle school. They are best friends with a lot of the same interests and committed Christians but there's not a lot of passion between them. Then Manuel transfers to their school and he's gay. They live in a small conservative town in Texas and homosexuality is severely frowned upon and one kid (Jude) has no problem saying "If I saw two guys walk down the street holding hands, I'd take a baseball bat and kill them." These comments are all too common and school officials do nothing to stop the teasing, vandalism and violence that is happening to anyone the popular kids at school deem "queer" (whether they are actually GLBT or not). Paul has been having dreams about guys and when Manuel shows up, it brings the issues Paul has been struggling with to the surface. Manuel is clearly into him, but Paul loves Angie so in his mind, he can't be gay.
This novel is wonderfully well written and the characters were so real for me. I was terrified for Manuel's safety and I had to remind myself that it was just a book. Then I realized, it's not just a book. Real events happen like this all the time in high schools and towns across America. And the ignorant, hurtful comments that kids would say about GLBT teens reminded me too much of the derogatory, violent way white people treated black people, especially in the South. In The God Box, people have essentially changed only two things from the days of segregation; the target (from blacks to gays) and the method (from lynching to shooting). It's awful, especially because most of the people in the novel are supposed to be Christians. My favorite character is Manuel. He's wonderful with his pierced ears and eyebrow, devout faith and endless optimism. He doesn't let the negative comments and harassment get him too down and he has a great comeback for everything. He's a devout Christian and he really knows his Bible, he's constantly proving wrong Scripture passages that are used to condemn homosexuality with scripture passages that just let it be, homosexuality just is. He also has a really cool idea about God that I never though of (the inner feminist in me is ashamed), that God is also a she. "doesn't St. Paul say in Galatians that in Christ 'there is neither male nor female'? Why should we portray God as some old bearded guy, or even a man at all? Since we don't have a pronoun for a Supreme Being so infinite that it's called the 'I am', why not give equal time to calling God 'she'?" (pg.71) Huh. It's an interesting thought and throughout the book Manuel mixes it up, calling God Him and She.
It's fairly clear right away that Paul is gay, but his classmates and family don't suspect anything (although his girlfriend and other close friends do). Paul's struggle is heart wrenching and you feel so bad for him as he goes through a roller coaster ride of emotions ranging from happiness when he hangs out with Manuel to intense guilt for having his dreams and thinking his thoughts about guys to love for Angie. Watching Paul's growth in faith and maturity is a very real journey that connects the reader. I didn't feel any distance from Paul and his struggle, I was able to visualize the scenes from the book and imagine how these characters must have felt. The ending is sad and rewarding and I was definitely rooting for Paul and all his friends to come out ok. Another great character is Angie, Paul's girlfriend. She's the best example of a Christian (along with Manuel and Dakota, another one of Paul's friends). She's very sweet and is trying to help Paul understand who he is, although she loves him and wants him to be straight. She's caring and reaches out to everyone although we do learn that she has had to struggle to come to terms with her feelings about Christianity and homosexuality. Dakota is a firecracker always willing to fight for injustice. She's blunt, compassionate and loyal. She, Angie and Manuel decide to try and start a GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) and reading about their efforts to do that is frustrating and fascinating. The school tries to thwart them at every turn but they will not be deterred. Even the awful characters are scarily realistic and three-dimensional.
The title is thoughtful and unique as Manuel says (and I agree) "I think we've created God in our image, instead of the other way around. It's like we've built this little box and tried to cram the infinity of God into it, too afraid that if we let him out, she might challenge us too much." This theme is explored in depth throughout the rest of the book. I can't recommend The God Box enough, it's a Godsend in a way because I think it really helps all teens struggling between keeping their faith and staying true to themselves, even if you're GLBT this book will delight and inspire you because you may have a similar attitude to that of other characters; God will send all GLBT people to hell. This book refutes that claim but not at all in a preachy way. For mature readers. 8th grade and up (or at least for people who are mature and about to enter high school). Oh and I really like the cover, how it's two guys holding hands and through their hands you can see a church door (I think it's a church door at least).
Note: I ask that all people read this book, but especially Christians. It's the very definition of food for thought and I think all Christians should read this book and remain open-minded. Perhaps Christians are being a bit too hasty and judgemental in their feelings about homosexuality and taking the Bible out of context.