Dear God (Tales From Foster High #4.5) by John Goode

4 stars

Dear God Dear God by John Goode is a deleted chapter from End of the Innocence, the fourth book in the Tales From Foster High Series, which was excluded from the book because the author felt it would have slowed the pace of the story, but important enough in its subject matter to be released as a short story. In this short piece, Kyle goes to a local church in search of understanding and answers on God, the Bible and Christianity’s treatment of homosexuality as a means of fighting prejudice and those using religion against his friend. His inquiry leads him to some surprising conclusions and forces him to re-examine his own beliefs.

As with all the books in the series, Dear God is well written, and I enjoyed this short fiction for what it is – a means of delving further into the character of Kyle Stilleno, one of the main protagonists in this series, and at the same time examining the issues of Christianity and its treatment of homosexuality, within the context of the overall story arc.

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“…Now, I am not even going to go into the fact that Foster had half a dozen churches and not one Starbucks, and instead I will just say I headed over to the Calvary Catholic Church with no coffee at all. It was the middle of the afternoon on a Wednesday, the second week into winter break, and I needed some help in debating against God.”

Readers familiar with the books in the Foster High series know that Mr. Goode doesn’t shy away from difficult subjects when it comes to the portrayal of Kyle and his boyfriend Brad’s continuing story as out teenagers in small town “Nowhere” Texas. Thus far, Mr. Goode has dealt with such themes as, coming out, marginalisation, bullying and suicide as part of the Foster High experience. In Dear God he examines issues surrounding Christianity and homosexuality.

As with all the books in the series the story is narrated in the first person, and Kyle’s inner voice – his intelligence, inquisitiveness and yes even his sarcasm – remains a pleasure to read. But much of this short story is a conversation between Kyle and the priest he visits in search of answers. In this, Mr. Goode takes an interesting approach. The exchange between Kyle and Father Mulligan revolves around a reinterpretation of biblical texts (both Old and New Testaments) used by many branches of institutionalized Christianity and other religions of the Judaeo-Christian tradition against LGBTQ people worldwide – the most common being the texts of Leviticus. But their conversation also takes a more spiritual rather than literal reading of the Bible, one that interprets God as an all-encompassing force of love of everyone and everything.

I agree with the author’s assessment that as a chapter it would have slowed the pace of End of the Innocence. However, given the events that transpire in the fourth book, as a short story Dear God provides insight into the evolution of Kyle, and at the same time examines timely and important issues of relevance to the characters and series as a whole.

Dear God by John Goode is available as a free download at Dreamspinner Press.

Music: Dear God – XTC (Skylarking, 1986)

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