Book Review | This Above All by Lindsey Roth Culli

  • Title | This Above All
  • Author | Lindsey Roth Culli
  • Genre | YA, Contemporary, LGBT
  • Publisher | Curiosity Quills Press e-book
  • Publication Date | 29 August, 2016
  • ISBN | 9781620073407

** First of all I would like to thank Net Galley for providing me a Review Copy of This Above All by Lindsey Roth Culli

Synopsis | Net Galley

All her life, sixteen-year old Piper has been content to go along with her ultraconservative family’s mission to warn the heathens of the impending judgment of God through anti-gay protests. So when she’s cast as Romeo in her school’s production of Romeo & Juliet, Piper is as shocked as everyone else. The production proves to be vastly different than her other on-stage experiences– previously limited to playing “AIDS Girl” in her church’s annual “Hell House”– and Piper soon discovers not only does she love acting, she’s also pretty talented.

The school principal, influenced by people like Piper’s dad, demands that the part of Romeo be recast “appropriately” or the show cannot go on. Now, Piper faces a choice: become the figurehead to appeal the principal’s decision– in direction opposition to her family and everything she’s ever believed–, or accept the message the administration’s ultimatum sends to gay students, including someone she has come to call a close friend. Namely, that they should be ashamed of who they are or whom they happen to love.

For the old Piper, it would have been a no-brainer. But being Romeo has affected her in ways she never imagined, and so has her new friendship. Now Piper finds herself face to face with the real cost of all her family’s efforts, and it challenges everything she thought she knew about life. And God.

This Above All was a wonderful and fascinating read for me, and it is a great read to start off my month. I do have to admit that I was put off by the book at the beginning – no doubt some people might be too, but I promise you that it will get better and once you start getting into the story you won’t be putting it down (or at least, that’s what happened to me).

The reason why I am saying that this novel may put off some people is the fact that our protagonist, Piper Ryan, is an extreme evangelist Christian, whose father is the pastor of their church and is also extremely anti-gay (or ‘Pro-God’). In the beginning, Piper too shared her father’s view, believing that a sin is a sin and thou shall be condemned by you actions. And being associated with a sinner is definitely a no-go.

Throw in a brother who is out to rue the day along with getting the part of Romeo in the school’s production of Romeo & Juliet (even though your a girl), it’s bound to be hell. However, things change when Piper does start to play the part of Romeo. She learns to see the world outside of what she has been indoctrinated into, and she begins to build an unlikely friendship with one of her gay cast mates. But, when the principal has announced the cancellation of the production- due to the influence of people like John Ryan,  unless the part of Romeo is given to the appropriate gender, Piper has been put on the spot to choose between familial loyalty and what her heart is telling her to do; acting and her new found friendships.

I loved reading about the changes that Piper went through, especially her realisation that no one should be condemned for whom they fall in-love with, even if they are of the same gender. Piper grows out of her father’s indoctrination, and she learns to accept people for who they are, and not for what they have done or whom they are attracted to, and most of all not for whom the Bible has taught her to believe them to be. Sure it was frustrating at first, but it was worth it. She also learns to be her own person, with her own opinions and beliefs – she still believes in God by the end of it, but not the teachings her father has been preaching. I also love the fact that she has grown so much as a person, how she has become an individual and became more adventurous (in a sense)!

Piper becomes friend with a gay cast mate, and her idea of what is “right” and “wrong” changes from the black and white she has been taught – she starts to see the grey areas, and start to question the things her father has drilled into her brain. I truly admire Lindsey Roth Culli’s dedication to show that not all Christian (evangelist/Catholics) are homophobes who always follow what the Bible tells them to – that there are also Christians who are liberal and believe that love is love, and that is what truly matters in the end.

Being from a religious background myself, I could relate to Piper’s plight – the decision to whether carry on with the beliefs you have been brought up with, or change your ways and believe in what is really in-front of you and not to judge people by their sexuality, etc. But for who they really are as people (their personalities and characteristics). It is believable enough that people from extreme Christian backgrounds can change their ways and be a better person, if not completely accepting, at least tolerating.

Of course there is bound to be romance, and I have nothing against the romantic relationships within the novel – but what I found was that everything turned out perfect for Piper and Dylan (main love interest), how everything flawlessly worked together to bring this two lovers together… unlike the tragic ending of the aforementioned Shakespeare play – Romeo & Juliet. It is a stark contrast.

Lindsey Roth Culli is a marvellous writer, and I really enjoyed the way she wrote her novel – the book isn’t simply about one thing, or the other – it is about a whole lot of social issues that teenagers (even adults) experience in their lives at least once. There are a lot of lessons you can learn from reading this novel. For instance, that rumours are just rumours and just because many seem to believe it, you shouldn’t judge a person based on these and you have to give them the benefit of the doubt before even making an assumption.

Overall Rating | ⭐⭐⭐⭐




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