Connor Major is going to need to find people he can trust after being kidnapped and taken to a deserted island in the upcoming YA adventure thriller Surrender Your Sons. Written by Adam Sass, Teen Vogue has a first look at the book's cover and an excerpt.
Described as a queer Lord of the Flies meets the TV series Lost, the novel follows gay teen Connor whose summer vacation becomes a nightmare when his extremely religious family kidnaps him and drop him off at a conversion therapy camp hidden on an abandoned island. Adam was inspired after watching a documentary called Kidnapped for Christ about a real-life conversion camp in the Dominican Republican that’s now closed.
"The place felt so impossible that it could even exist, and I wanted to see these kids not only escape but bring the whole place down," Adam tells Teen Vogue. "I loved the idea of a group of desperate kids having no choice but to rely on each other, despite their differences."
Connor has to work with other LGBTQ+ teens that have been left at the dangerous place as they uncover the secrets of the people who run it. There is no straight savior character in this story, and no adult can be trusted. These queer kids are saving and relying on each other.
Inspired by R.L. Stine and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Adam uses heightened stakes to also explore the bread and butter of YA.
"Queer YA has seen so many great buzzy love stories, true, but there is a full-feels love story in Surrender Your Sons, the stakes are just higher," he says. "The emotions of being a teenager, being queer, and figuring out what that even means becomes literally life and death."
The cover of the novel is designed by Jake Nordby, and Adam loves how it communicates horror — and how it looks fittingly similar to a Venus flytrap. Surrender Your Sons comes out later this fall from Flux Books, but check out an early excerpt below. You can pre-order the book here.
“Rise and shine, Nightlight,” the Reverend’s voice crackles from a speaker above the door. I yelp and topple backward in clumsy jumps. “The time is six-thirty. Breakfast is in one hour.”
Horn music drifts out of a decrepit, gunmetal gray speaker as five boys leap from their beds and tuck their sheets with energetic, military precision. Before I can summon the will to trudge back to my bunk, my stomach explodes with an electrified thought: they’re children. Marcos is around my age, as is a handsome boy with long, blond surfer hair and obnoxiously clear skin, but the three others are tiny—thirteen at the oldest. Like a prison warden, Marcos addresses each of the young boys by name as he inspects their bed-making. The first boy, Owen Regis, is so dainty he has trouble opening his sheet wide enough to fold it. The next boy, Alan Gardner, is taller, but not by much. His freckled wrist hangs limply, absentmindedly, in midair until Marcos taps the telltale wrist with a rubber-tipped pointer.\
“Oh my gosh,” Alan gasps, straightening his wrist, curling it over and over to make sure he shook all the gay out of it.\
“It’s okay, you got it,” Marcos says, genuinely supportive. He brushes back his own sleep-mussed hair and pops a retainer out of his mouth and into a green, plastic snap case. Adorable. Marcos Carrillo may be the cabin snitch, but there’s just something about a big, tall cutie with correctional dentistry. I glance away, and only just in time—he turns, alert as a cat, as if he could feel the weight of my attention.\
Ario never mentioned being gay would literally be as exhausting as Olympic swimming.\
The last boy, Vance Olmos, is small, round, and copper skinned. He whistles along with the speaker’s jaunty classical music as he straightens his sheets, but Marcos crinkles his brow as if smelling something diseased. “Vance, you’re whistling,” he says.\
Whistling over. Vance nods, grateful to be corrected.\
Behind me, the cabin door unlatches and, once again, I jump. The screen swings open onto Ben Briggs, looking well rested in his black tank top with a plunging neckline that accentuates his impressive chest. “Everyone up and out,” Briggs orders. “Mr. Carrillo?”\
“The Beginners are ready,” Marcos says, waving Alan, Vance, and Owen out to meet Briggs. The boys (Beginners?) haul gray knapsacks over their shoulders on their way out into the sunshine. Before vanishing around the corner, Alan—the tall Beginner with the dangling wrist—leans back to sneak one more peek at me. Cool—I’ve been cruised by a tween. This cabin is full of kids with eyes in constant states of looking and not looking, like roving prison lights. I’ve only been here half a day and I’m already so self-conscious, I don’t even know where to put my attention anymore.\
Still looming in the doorframe, Briggs cocks his eyebrow. “Hop to it, Mr. Major. You don’t get a lie-in, even on your first day. Twenty minutes ‘til departure.” With that, he stomps down the stairs, leaving the screen door drifting open in the lakeside breeze.\
My heart boils to even consider such an immediate, simple escape, but I force myself to remember the facts: it’s not smart to run.\
Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue