Advance Praise


“There's so much to admire in Chris Shirley's debut novel, but the most remarkable thing may be its voice. Jake is both earnest and skeptical, curious and guarded, and he tells his story with an endearing humility that -- somehow -- avoids the sarcasm that has become the norm. Playing by The Book reminds us of how rewarding it can be to climb into someone else's head.”

-- Patrick Ryan, author of Send Me and Saints of Augustine


“In Playing by The Book, S. Chris Shirley tells a story I loved curling up with, featuring one of the most endearing teen protagonists I've read in years.”

--Alex Sanchez, author of The God Box and Boyfriends with Girlfriends


S. Chris Shirley’s Playing By the Book is winning, witty, touching, and full of life. Jake Powell’s journey from wide-eyed innocence to self-actualization is a pleasure to witness. What’s even more pleasurable is being in the hands of a writer who knows how to tell a story, who knows how to create complex characters, and who brings honesty and love to every page of his debut. Bravo!”

--Martin Wilson, author of What They Always Tell Us


"In the ideal world, Chris Shirley's Playing by The Book would be made into a teenage romantic comedy to play at your local cineplex. A classic coming of age story with a queer twist, Playing by The Book manages to be both poignant and lighthearted at the same time as young Jake navigates the currents of first love to a realistic but still happy ending. Shirley finds the truth in Jake's story and gives it to us in clear and accessible prose. A thoroughly enjoyable read that should be on the shelves of every school library as well as the bed stands of anyone who wants to understand what it feels like to grow up gay."

--Kevin Jennings, Founder, The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN)


"Finally! A perfectly poised story of a bible-belt upbringing that isn't marred by snarky distancing or corny nostalgia. Maybe we've had to wait a long time for this book, because the culture's been so slow to catch up with Chris Shirley. He's as respectful of the religious experience and a kid's half-formed ambitions as he is piercingly honest about the awkward intensity of a sexual awakening."

--David McConnell, author of The Silver Hearted


"In this heartfelt and moving coming-of-age story, Chris Shirley has given us a Holden Caulfield for a new generation."

--Geoffrey Nauffts,Tony-nominated playwright of Next Fall


“Chris Shirley’s Playing by The Book is beautifully written and vividly conveys a journey of self-discovery. This moving, funny, and sexy young adult novel also illuminates how combining Christian fundamentalism and a gay love story can produce another very Good Book.”

--Bob Smith, author of Openly Bob and Selfish and Perverse


In Playing by The Book, Chris Shirley does something miraculous: he tells the moving and often funny story of a fundamentalist Christian minister's son coming to terms with his sexuality with refreshing candor and loving respect for all perspectives. The result is a debut novel that celebrates varied points of view without preaching to the converted. No matter where you stand, expect to be reached by this Son-of-a-Preacher Man.

--Michael Zam, librettist, The Kid (musical) 


Books with Similar Themes:


The God Box (Alex Sanchez)

Small Town Sinners (Melissa Walker)

The Chosen (Chaim Potok)

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