★★★★ In Silent Echo by Beth Burgmeyer, a conservative college student named Eva finds her entire life turned upside down by Jackson, a hotheaded social activist who strikes up a conversation with her at a LGBTQ rally in Des Moines. Together, the two teens explore the edges of their own belief systems, and challenge each other in ways that will ultimately expand both of their worlds. With time, what began as a simple religious debate begins to turn into a long-lasting and romantic relationship. But before the couple can find happiness, they’ll have to contend with family pressures, fights with friends, and a not-infrequent failure to communicate their feelings to each other.
In a story that seems ripped right from this year’s headlines, Burgmeyer thoughtfully charts a course through several of today’s most contentious topics, including LGBTQ rights, police brutality, and the church’s role in stimulating—and stifling—healthy debate. The novel contains numerous hard-to-read, yet powerful, scenes from violent protests around the United States, demonstrating how these watershed moments can leave a lasting effect on protesters’ lives and on public discourse. Throughout Jackson’s courtship of Eva, the couple encounters one romantic obstacle after another, but Burgmeyer manages to give each separate event its own room to breathe, allowing her characters’ time to navigate and grow from life’s many conflicts. In the end, this is the type of novel that has the ability to open people’s minds, and readers of all stripes will find something thought-provoking to take away from the text.