The Antichrists, Mark A. Roeder
Genre: YA, LGBT (G)
Length: 290 pages
Purchase At: amazon.com
***WARNING: Spoilers ahead.***
“I walked toward the bleachers under the penetrating gaze of eighty sets of eyes.”
The Antichrists is part of the Gay Youth Chronicles, a series of over thirty stories set in Indiana over the course of 50 years.
The following passage is the official blurb for this book. I do not believe I can describe it any better without completely ruining the storyline.
Elijah has a dream—to follow in the footsteps of his brothers and make the VHS football team. But, for Elijah it’s an uphill battle. Unlike his tall, muscular brothers, Elijah is small and weak, but he pushes on, determined to realize his dream.
Elijah’s faith is a source of comfort and strength, but when his new pastor begins to preach out against gays, Elijah feels increasingly unwelcome. While his church seems increasingly un-Christian, Elijah is exposed to the gay boys of Verona—boys who care about each other and reach out to those in need. Why are those who are called abominations acting more Christian than the Christians? When Elijah admits to himself that he is gay his faith is weakened. His belief is further shaken when he becomes sick. Is it a punishment from God? How could God create him gay and then punish him for it?
As Elijah’s troubles and doubts increase, a very special boy comes into his life and helps him find his way. Elijah learns that much of what he has been taught in church is wrong, but that he shouldn’t turn his back on his beliefs. He learns that sometimes, those who present themselves as moral leaders are anything but. They are the Antichrists.
The Good Parts
The Antichrists boils down into what is essentially a theological debate over homosexuality. The main opposing arguments are between those who believe love comes foremost and those who believe homosexuality is the biggest abomination known to man.
I thoroughly enjoyed how this debate played out over the course of the book and in particular confrontations between Pastor Walker and a young Hispanic boy, Jesus. (Pronounced Hey-sus, just for clarification.) These are complemented by Elijah and how his perspective changes over the course of the book; he realises that his homosexual tendencies are not a choice, but something he cannot deny to himself.
Psychology of Death
Writing dialogue for a terminally ill 15 year old is going to be incredibly tough, but I believe that the author did this incredibly well, capturing the grief present in Elijah’s mind over the course of his debilitation. Instead of himself Elijah cares more about how he’ll be affecting those around him. In particular he cares about friends like Banshee, Lucas and Cody, and how they will cope after he’s gone.
Beautifully written, Elijah’s dialogue during his demise is what I adored about The Antichrists and was definitely a redeeming factor. Which leads us into…
The Numerous Not-So-Good Parts
The editing of The Antichrists is not of a standard that one should expect when paying to read a novel. There are instances of characters repeating conversations and other seemingly obvious inconsistencies in the story. As an example I would like to elaborate on the day Elijah discovers he has cancer.
“I was surprised on Friday afternoon when my mom showed up at my P.E. class….Mom had come to pick me up for a doctor’s appointment. My lab results had come in.
The next day Elijah goes to school, his father drives him and students are all in attendance, no-one seems to notice anything is wrong. I did. Don’t know many schools in America that are open for business on Saturdays, let alone one that actually has students in attendance. Elijah even knew he didn’t need to attend, he said so paragraphs earlier. Such poor continuity is greatly obvious to the reader and unfortunately it is not the only case in the book; it imparted a horrible impression on me.
Young Adult novels deal with sex in various ways; some do it well and others not so well. This book falls into the latter category. In my opinion The Antichrists borders on erotica in it’s depiction of a sex scene between Elijah and Cody. Given the age of the characters involved (15 and 17 respectively) and being contained in a YA book I didn’t think it was appropriate. In addition the dialogue was messy throughout the scene, in particular a ridiculous conversation taking place afterwards.
Cody – “Are you gay?”
Elijah – “Yes. I don’t imagine many straight guys would let you do to them what you just did with me.”
Really unimpressed with the ending and my rating is a reflection of this. It may be an unpopular opinion but I do believe the book would have worked much better if Elijah had died. He had prepared for death and was ready and accepting of the fact. I appreciate the idea of Elijah selflessly defending homosexual people in the world and then being miraculously cured to show the hateful preachers the errors of their ways. All in all it felt like the ultimate deus ex machina, and I really hated it. But I believe that, if Elijah had died, it would’ve inspired others to carry on his message of love in the name of Jesus, providing a realistic and satisfying (albeit tragic) ending.
Jesus (the actual Jesus) appearing and performing a miracle takes away from an otherwise good core story and takes it outside of a realistic setting, something that I appreciate in my books. Without such a poor ending this book would have achieved a higher rating.
While I did enjoy The Antichrists, overall the bad qualities came very close to outweighing the good. I gave this book 3 stars because of the excellent religious message and capturing Elijah’s thoughts as he dies far too soon; the bad parts came very close to destroying the good work of the author in portraying these themes, and they truly disturbed what was otherwise a good experience. If you are looking for a utterly great, realistic YA M/M book then this is not for you, if – instead – you are looking for a good theological debate of homosexuality, then I strongly suggest reading The Antichrists.
“When my time does come I won’t be afraid because I know my friend Jesus will be waiting on me.”