Never Saw You Coming by Erin Hahn

I admit that I flinched a little when I read the blurb for this on receiving the Wednesday Books circular. How much would I, a progressive Muslim, find in common with a bunch of evangelical Christian church kids? Apparently, quite a lot! I’m glad I put my trust in Wednesday Books on this: when they do “controversial” they do it right.

Meg Hennessey is 18 years-old when she discovers that her entire life has been a lie. Raised and home-schooled by devoutly Christian parents (the kind who would characterize themselves brightly as “Christian!” when asked which denomination, probably without even realizing the cynical marketing behind the turn away from their Pentecostal roots — yes, I have THOUGHTS,) Meg is informed by her mom that the man who raised her isn’t actually her biological father but the best friend Mom married when she found out that she was pregnant and that the guy who’d knocked her up was dead. After this confession, Dad takes off altogether, leaving Meg feeling betrayed, rudderless and alone. When she discovers that her paternal great-grandmother lives ten hours upstate and desperately wants to meet her, she decides to take her gap year up in Marquette, Michigan in order to try to get to know that side of her family better.

Micah Allen used to be the quintessential pastor’s kid until his dad was imprisoned for embezzlement from the church. Between that and the sexual relationships, occasionally coercive, between Micah’s dad and certain church staff, Micah’s completely blind-sided family was shunned and worse. Micah’s mom eventually remarried and had several more kids, but Micah never really recovered. Though his faith in God is still strong, he no longer goes to or believes in the church.

When Meg and Micah meet, they first think the other is an extreme weirdo, but as circumstances keep throwing them together, they find themselves falling in love. But are they each too much of a mess to be able to really connect? Can they come to terms with the past in order to build a better future together? And while they share a deep love of God, will the teachings of the evangelical church tear them apart?

Fundy parents will loathe what Erin Hahn terms an “alternative” Christian romance. The teenagers swear, drink, make out and either aren’t straight or are accepting of non-heterosexual lifestyles, and Ms Hahn has the temerity to suggest that none of this means they’re anything less than Good Christians. While I don’t agree with her “one and done” doctrine, I do agree that there’s a lot of petty nonsense and misogyny that fuels many, many religious spaces, and think she’s done a brave and necessary thing writing so boldly about this. As a fellow God-believer, tho not in the traditions she or her characters follow, I share her impatience with people who use religion to control and shame how women dress and behave instead of expending that considerable energy to feeding the poor and helping the needy. We need fewer, ideally zero anti-abortion protests and many, many more diaper drives and nursery creches, in addition to comprehensive sex education so people can make informed choices. And let me tell you, learning about the biology of sex and pregnancy in science class put me off the idea for a very long time! Sex ed isn’t meant to be a manual on pleasure, as some weirdos think it is. It just explains the processes and options (and SHOULD also explain the different forms of birth control) so naive kids don’t get coerced into doing things they don’t want to and end up facing life-altering, possibly -ruining, consequences.

And while I didn’t agree with certain aspects of doctrine, there were a lot of things I did agree with, such as the incredibly wise

“Forgiving someone before you mean it is useless. And a lie. So why force the issue?[“]

Never Saw You Coming is an important YA novel that might not be for everyone but will 100% save lives. A faith in God isn’t everyone’s thing but it can be a real comfort, especially for people born into strict religious traditions who find themselves questioning the overt misogyny and, frankly, close-mindedness of those in power. As a Muslim, I didn’t find this Christian novel any more preachy than necessary, tho it was still very devout. It’s an excellent attempt at reconciling religion with the demands of the real world — and don’t think I don’t lol when Protestant “Christians” complain about co-religionists proclaiming a faith in God while daring to break away from the church, as if Martin Luther hadn’t set that precedent centuries ago.

Never Saw You Coming by Erin Hahn was published September 7 2021 by Wednesday Books and is available from all good booksellers, including

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