“You can’t see gay. You can’t see fear. But you can’t see joy either. And you need love. Life’s full of things you can’t see, so you need love to figure out which ones to trust.”
This is one powerful book and I’m not quite sure where to start with all the thoughts I have so I guess the beginning—as in the title—is as good a place as any. J
Throwing Stones is a most appropriate title for this book. In the bible it says: ‘He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone’. And stones are being cast in this book, both literal and figuratively, except that of course none of those throwing—or any other character—is without sin, because who is? But that does immediately raise another question; because what exactly is a ‘sin’? Is Jesse a sinner because he’s gay? Not to his own mind, not according to some people he meets, but his family and others in his Christian community have a hard time not seeing him as such. And then there’s the Pagan community living in the Grove; are they sinners because they do not subscribe to the Christian tradition, or are they just different believers? And there are other, more subtle and more or less unaddressed examples of possibly sinful behaviour in this book. These concepts and the way they are dealt with certainly offer the reader, both young and old(er) with plenty of food for thought.
Of course stones are also what will gain Jesse access to the Grove, what will bring him together with his love interest, as well as the objects that sustain his long-time friendship with Brad through tough times.
And while I’m on the subject of stones; I would say this is a book about building bridges. Jesse, once he’s outed himself as gay feels very marginalised. His interest in the people who live in what the people in his town refer to as the Village, only takes him further away from the family and community he’s grown up with. His otherness could so easily have made him withdraw into himself, but brave Jesse does the opposite, he reaches out to those who are also other. Isn’t it funny how it is often those who are or have been marginalised, bullied, or abused who stand up for the rights of others in a similar situation? And bridges, especially those meant to bring opposing sides together, are more often than not build one stone at a time.
Of course Jesse’s motives for bringing the Grove and the town together aren’t all selfless and altruistic. He definitely has a stake in the outcome of his ‘meddling’. And along the way he grows up and learns a few valuable lessons.
“Whatever people show you up front, they reveal themselves slowly, over time, and you get to see who they really are only if you chisel patiently away around them, protecting yourself with gloves and goggles as necessary, trusting that behind the hard surface you can’t see through is a core of something with special properties. Sometimes you’re disappointed, and you can’t find that precious core, and you don’t know whether you’ve used the wrong tools or looked in the wrong place, or if there wasn’t anything brilliant in there at all. But you have to try. And if you’re patient enough, if you trust enough, you’ll find it.
It is exactly the fact that Jesse wasn’t perfect, or totally selfless that made this such a wonderful read. In fact very little, if anything, in this book is either completely black or white. If this book has a message, and I think it does, it is that people are inclined to turn against that which they don’t understand. Often out of fear rather than mean-spiritedness. If common ground can be found between those on opposite sides, the distance between them may be bridged, as Jesse finds out time and again.
Jesse is a recognisable and wonderfully portrayed teenager. He wants to do what’s best but just hasn’t got the ability to always see the bigger picture and, in typical teenage fashion, gets frustrated when those who can see more curb his enthusiasm or appear to hold him back. I’m so glad the author didn’t shy away from portraying the teenage obsession with relationships and sex. While there is nothing overly graphic in this book and Jesse’s intimate moments with Ronan are not described in detail, they are both steamy and totally endearing. And then there were the few more romantic moments between Ronan and Jesse that took my breath away.
“I think of you then, and a lot of other times, too. (….) And when I do, I burn. It hurts, and it’s the best feeling, all at once. And I’d rather burn like fire than lose the way I feel about you.” – Ronan
The blurb calls this a paranormal novel, and I guess that’s right. Inexplicable things do most certainly happen. However, these are presented as almost unremarkable, just something that is, rather than something to shock the reader. In fact, a lot of what might read as paranormal to other readers felt all too ‘normal’ to me.
Overall this was an inspirational and fascinating story. Jesse wormed his way into my heart as the story progressed and now, hours after finishing the book, I still find myself thinking about him. Throwing Stones combines a gripping story with some valuable life lessons without ever pushing a message down the reader’s throat. I’m mightily impressed.