I wrote my initial Goodreads review of Autoboyography, Christina Lauren’s latest, about a month ago. I felt that urgency to capture my first thoughts and reactions after reading the book, giving it a 5-star rating. But I needed the last month to just sort of let it sit with me, because that’s the kind of book Autoboyography is. A book with so much hope, heart, and so much to think about.
In Autoboyography, Tanner Scott and his family have moved from the Bay Area to more conservative Utah. With the move, he also goes back into the closet on his bisexuality. As he wraps up his senior year of high school, he opts into a Seminar program in which students have four months to write a book. Tanner meets and ends up falling for Sebastian, who sold his Seminar novel the year before. The attraction is complicated by the fact that Sebastian is Mormon.
Christina Lauren approaches this story with sensitivity and compassion, while capturing all the angsty joy of first love. Although Tanner doesn’t run off at the mouth, there’s definitely that “just can’t shut up about your crush” vibe. Every little detail feels monumental. That kind of, “Ohmygod, I like him so much,do you think he likes me?He’s so cute,did you see how his sleeves were rolled up,do you think he noticed me?”
Autoboyography also made me think a lot about some neighbors we had years ago, a Mormon family with 3 boys. At least one of them went to BYU. What if one of them had been gay or bisexual? As an individual, how do you resolve the conflict between the belief system that informs your identity and instilled some key values in you, when it doesn’t make room for who you are completely? That’s what Sebastian is up against.
Though Tanner is temporarily re-closeted, his confidence and joy in knowing who he is juxtaposed with Sebastian’s struggle is heart-rending. Watching Sebastian wrestle with his feelings, and with his family, makes for some hand-to-heart sad moments. What’s really striking is Christina Lauren isn’t passing judgment on either side. Ultimately, Autoboyography is a wish put out into the universe with the hope that one day same-sex relationships will be recognized and not regarded as a sin. Amen to that.
Although it starts to sound like a platitude, love is love. We all deserve to experience the highs and lows of young love, even when it’s complicated, and might require bravery we don’t know we have. I can’t say I’ve read a book that captures that better.
Autoboyography comes out on September 12.