Don’t Let Me Go by J. H. Trumble: A Review
As a novel, Don’t Let Me Go by J. H. Trumble is a finely crafted work of fiction. A moving and powerful novel, it has received excellent reviews and endorsements. The novel is not constructed chronologically, but through flashbacks that tie together the characters’ past, present, and future. It is a satisfying read, and though not a romance novel in form, it is a love story, a Bildungsroman—the story of Nate Shaper, a teen who feels perhaps too intensely, and one who feels the power of a forbidden love in a homophobic society. Nate learns the hard truth of the Song of Solomon in 8:6 that “love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave.”
When I began the reading, I thought I would encounter the typical young adult novel. What I discovered was that I was reading a bold, complex novel that reached into the psyche of our culture. This is one of those novels that teach us some uncomfortable truths about life, about passion, about parenting, about the educational system—truths that challenge conventional mores of society, that help us understand the very real inner and external struggles of young men and women whose hearts and bodies are unable to conform to the paradigms of what society considers normal. Teens need a support system from friends, family, and personal interests and talents. Nate finds his support in music, in Juliet—a girl who likes boys who likes boys—his mother, a teacher, and male friends like Danial and Luke. If you’ve ever wondered how some children are lost and how parents and schools and friends can harshly punish and even delete or expel a child from their lives, Nate’s story will give you some answers and insights. For example, when Nate’s father finds out the truth of his son, he walks out of the family’s life. Nate “watched him go with a mixture of anger and despair.” He says, “The despair was not for myself . . . but for a man who had just thrown away his only son” (181).
Trumble’s writing is rich in allusion to literature, history, and music. (In fact, Trumble provides a valuable playlist of songs that young people of our generation know and listen to.) The novel is not didactic, yet it takes us into deep waters, forcing us to think, and to rethink our assumptions, exposing the contradictions of stereotypes and the dangers of our prejudices. As Nate experiences conflict, suffering, and “trainwrecks” due to his own choices and the choices of others, he matures and is at last reunited with the love of his life, and “talked finally of the things that really mattered, of hurt, of fear, of need, of trust, of loyalty, of forgiveness, and of love” (335).
I found many memorable lines. Here are a couple that I hope will get you thinking:
(About coming out) “It was the parents. You could never be absolutely certain how they’d respond” (240).
(About judging) “You don’t have to understand You don’t have to agree. Just leave people alone” (183).
The novel has well-constructed study questions attached to guide students, readers, or teachers. You can read more about Trumble here on her website: http://www.jhtrumble.com/
The book is available in print, Kindle, and Nook editions.
Here is the MLA Works Cited Entry:
Trumble, J.H. Don’t Let Me Go. New York: Kensington, 2012. Print.