I picked up CONVICTION after it was short-listed for the 2016 Morris award, so my expectations going into Kelly Loy Gilbert's debut novel were already pretty high. And this book still blew me away.
First, there was Gilbert's prose--clear, deft, and powerful. The way Gilbert writes about baseball made even me interested in it. Braden felt like such a real character, trying to live up to the rules of honor expected both on the playing field and in the church. The plot, of course, was wrenching, as Braden struggles through the aftermath of his father's being accused of murdering a local cop. But that wasn't what kept me reading so compulsively. The heart of the book was the relationships: Braden's relationship with his father, with his friends, with his half-brother Trey--and with God.
What stands out to me the most about this book is its sensitive, true depiction of teen faith. Without ever seeming condescending, Gilbert present's Braden's evolving faith as a real thing. When so many YA books don't even touch on the issue of faith (unless it's to gloss over it), I thought Gilbert's book was brave and much-needed.
Did I enjoy this book? I don't know--what I felt (continue to feel) about it isn't easily summed up in enjoy. It moved me profoundly. It made me hurt, it made me angry, it made me hopeful. I'm still mulling over the ending. A powerful book by a powerful new writer.