Author: Aaron Hartzler
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: April 9, 2013
ARC provided by publisher
Aaron Hartzler is a good kid. He loves Jesus. He honors his mother and father. He doesn't go to movies or listen to rock music. He believes with all his heart that Jesus will return in the Second Coming and the faithful will fly up to heaven to meet Him in the Rapture.
And then Aaron becomes a teenager.
Rapture Practice is a memoir by Aaron Hartzler, the son of a preacher man, who learns that belief needs to come from yourself and not from your parents.
I get Aaron Hartzler. I grew up in a Catholic family that switched to evangelical Christian when I was 12. My parents weren't as strict as Aaron's. We went to movies. We owned a television. But we prayed in restaurants before eating our meals. There was a big family meeting when my parents wanted to throw out my comic book collection, but I eventually convinced them that comics told stories about good defeating evil (and thanks to my sister, Susan, for siding with me).
So I appreciated Aaron's story of growing up in a super-strict religious family who only wants the best for him. Who loves him and wants to him to go to heaven. And if he doesn't do exactly as they believe he should, he's disappointing them. And probably going to hell.
The beliefs that Aaron has a child are tested as he becomes a teenager, and he sneaks to the movies and keeps a secret collection of forbidden music (such as Amy Grant and Wilson Phillips). He keeps pushing the boundaries further and starts drinking and making out with girls. Eventually, he's found out, but it's part of his journey of learning who he is and what he really believes.
Aaron shares his story with humor and love. He doesn't mock his Christian family and friends. He has respect for who they are, even if he may no longer believe everything that they do.
I highly recommend Rapture Practice to readers who are questioning, both their faith and their sexuality. Aaron is gay, although his coming out story is not included in this book. I suspect a second book will cover that. But in Rapture Practice, he is certainly thinking about sexual expectations and what they mean to him.