Young and rebellious fourteen-year-old Sam Snyder packs some of his belongings to go see a godfather he’s never met in Missouri. His mom says it’ll just be the two of them traveling on this excursion, but she doesn’t reveal that she’s driving back alone. When they arrive at Mount Zion Baptist Boarding Academy, he is furious with his mom for deceiving him, and he’s determined to find a way out. So what if he got kicked out of Calvary Baptist for telling the principal he had no desire to be a Christian? How did that, as well as stealing and viewing pornography, make him deserve such a cruel fate? Mount Zion is full of religious zealots trying to preach God’s ways to a bunch of unsaved and troubled souls through endless fire-and-brimstone sermons, hours of forced labor, and arguably dictatorship-like control. Sam befriends some those walking his same path, but he quickly learns to trust no one. It’s every man for himself in this land of survival. After nine seemingly endless months, Brother Bruce, the lead instructor of the house, announces Sam and his sister who joined him weeks earlier will be leaving on a flight back home the following day. Though Sam’s ecstatic to be back in California, a free man, his mind somehow remains at Mount Zion. When he learns a friend has been killed trying to escape the grounds, he vows to uncover what really happened and have the place shut down at last.
Tweens and teens living through adversity will likely be impacted the most by this story. While it may appeal to the mainstream population some, those who have endured similar circumstances to Sam’s will find greater relatability in it. Although there are girls housed in a separate dormitory at Mount Zion, their presence in the story is minimal and is discussed through the eyes of the boys, often related to their physical attraction to them. In light of this, boys may be more drawn to God*s Will. In addition, a plethora of fights take place in the text and are described in full detail. Some vulgar language is used and an act of animal cruelty is portrayed, though in no way is it condoned.
The author is a board-certified behavior analyst and education consultant for emotionally disturbed children and individuals with disabilities. His familiarity with these populations adds an important element of truth and believability to his story. He is gifted in using amusing analogies and hilarious descriptions to shed light on the characters. There are times throughout when the story lingers on unnecessarily, however, the author does a masterful job of tying up the loose ends while injecting some unexpected twists and turns to help keep the reader engaged. The ambiguity at the very end is somehow welcoming, as it is analogous to God’s will in real life. Though one may lack complete understanding of God’s will, some acceptance of it is often necessary for peace to prevail.
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