Book review: Deposing Nathan by Zack Smedley

Title: Deposing Nathan by Zack Smedley

Publisher: Page Street Publishing Co

Publication date: 7 May 2019

Genre: Contemporary | Young adult

Page count: 400 pages

Synopsis: Nate never imagined that he would be attacked by his best friend, Cam.

Now, Nate is being called to deliver a sworn statement that will get Cam convicted. The problem is, the real story isn’t that easy or convenient—just like Nate and Cam’s friendship. Cam challenged Nate on every level from the day the boys met. He pushed him to break the rules, to dream, and to accept himself. But Nate—armed with a fierce moral code and conflicted by his own beliefs—started to push back. With each push, Nate and Cam moved closer to each other—but also spiraled closer to their breaking points.

*The following review may contain non-specific spoilers. And swears.*

Content warnings: brief mentions of suicide, biphobia, homophobia, abuse

Sometimes you read a book which slowly tears you apart, that feels like it was written for you, that feels like as if someone opened you up, took all your thoughts and feelings and put it on a page. That’s Deposing Nathan. It’s an emotionally raw and unforgiving experience, as the characters question religion, sexuality and themselves. In other words: it’s absolutely fucking amazing.

Deposing Nathan opens in a deposition, with Nathan giving a statement about the events which lead to his best friend, Cam, stabbing him. The story jumps between short flashes of the deposition, where we get glimpses of the wrecked relationship between Cam and Nathan, and the events of the past year or so. The past events are narrated by Nate, as if being stated to the lawyer at the deposition. We see how he met Cam, how the two grew close, and ultimately fell in love.

However, there’s a catch. Well several catches. The first, Aunt Lori. I think Lori was fantastically written – Zack manages to capture the perfect balance of someone who at times seems like loving caregiver, and at other times is a darker, more terrifying character, so you’re never really sure where you stand. She is at once both absolutely hateful and yet because the story is told from Nate’s POV, his thoughts and opinions often cloud the view of her, making her actions seem almost normalised. Her behaviour is just so destructive, yet she hides under the cover of ‘protective parent’. That insidious type of character building is absolutely incredible, and the slow descent to realisation is so soul-twisting, for both Nate and the reader.

Cam and Nate are now some of my favourite characters in YA. I really think Zack perfectly captured the despair and angst of teenage years, of the impulsive decisions and heartbreaking questioning of one’s identity. Cam pushes Nate to break rules and try new things, and Nate struggles with trying to please Cam as his Aunt’s claws begins to tighten around his neck.

“It’s a legitamate sexual orientation.”

“Since when?”

“The answer to your question is ‘always’, you asshole.”

What made this book so perfect and yet extremely difficult for me were the discussions around bisexuality. As Cam and Nate both grapple with this, there are some extremely traumatic scenes regarding the validity of bisexuality and its existence as a queer identity. This is something I have struggled with, and still to do this day struggle with. Bisexuality is too often seen as nonexistent by both the queer and non-queer communities; you’re too queer for some and not queer enough for others. I am so appreciative of Cam’s strong belief and surity in his sexuality and in its existence. At the risk of sounding a little cliche, it’s such an important statement to read, and yes, I wish I had had this book as a teen.

“Fine, well, even if you’re only one percent into dudes, it can still count. ‘Bisexual’ is a pretty broad term.”

In addition to the discussions around bisexuality, I really need to commend Zack for the very real portrayal of religion, and how that impacts someone questioning their identity. As someone who grew up in a Christian household, and went through their teenage years struggling with their sexuality, I found the portrayal extremely realistic and extremely raw. Zack has a tremendous ability to be able to tear your heart apart with the strength of his writing – Nate’s self hate, contemplation of suicide, his feeling of complete worthlessness in the eyes of God, is just so honest and so heartwrenching. And whilst I no longer consider myself religious, I don’t think I’ve ever seen myself so represented in a book before.

“Dear God: I don’t know what to do.”

I’ve always seen people praise books for portraying themselves but never really understood how important it actually is. Until you see yourself in a book so thoroughly, it’s hard to understand how important it can be. To see that you aren’t alone, that other people have suffered and feel as you do, and that things get better. Because despite the toxic relationship, despite the despair and anxiety and hate and biphobia in the book, it ends on an uplifting note. It is a perfect ending, not because everything ends happily ever after, but because it doesn’t. Because despite life not being perfect, there is still reason to hope. And I think that’s a message everyone needs to hear sometimes.

Deposing Nathan will twist and tear you, it will gut you and hurt like hell. And it is absolutely fucking phenomenal. It’s features the most realistic portrayal of bisexuality and religion I’ve ever read. It is an unforgivingly brutal tale of two boys who learn what it means to love themselves, even if they suffer to do so.

Paws out,
Rach + Draco

3 thoughts on “Book review: Deposing Nathan by Zack Smedley

  1. […] This book is one of my favourite books of the year, it absolutely broke me. Discussing the intersectionality of religion and bisexuality, this is the story of Nate and Cameron, how they fell in love, and how Nate ends up stabbing Cam. This book is so emotionally powerful, addressing the validity of bisexuality as an identity and at it’s heart has a powerful message about learning to love yourself and who are it. It is utterly captivating, and I so want you to read it! If I haven’t yet persuaded you, check out my full review of this book here! […]

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  2. […] Deposing Nathan is one of my alltime favourite books. It’s a very important book, very close to my heart, AND this year was nominated for a LAMBDA for Bisexual Fiction! Deposing Nathan is part courtroom drama, part YA coming of age. We open in a courtroom, where Nate is giving evidence against his former best friend, Cam, who stabbed him. We cut between this courtroom and the past, where we see Nate and Cam’s relationship develop as they go from BFFs to Stab City. This book also very personally and honestly deals with religion and sexuality, as well as the validity of bisexuality and it’s pretty much one of the most important books to me because of this. Smedley also manages to have some of the most realistic, dramatic writing I’ve seen, I felt so connected to Nate and his very moving story. This isn’t a happy story. But it’s a very important one. You can read my full review here. […]

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