Hi there! Welcome one and all to the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, a cozy gathering of book lovers, meeting to discuss their thoughts regarding the tomes they enjoyed most over the previous month. Pull up a chair, order your cappuccino and join in the fun.
Hi all! Today I’m sharing my review for LOVE SPELL by Mia Kerick. This is a contemporary YA M/M romance which is wholly clean and really compelling. Chance is a gender-fluid teen–that means he’s as likely to dress male or female. He’s confident that he’s gay, and 58% (or so) sure that he’s not transgender, but he really doesn’t want to think about it. Or talk about it. He just wants to find the right guy, and he’s pretty sure (probably 95%) that this right guy is Jasper.
Chance Cesar is an out gay teen, a senior in his rural New Hampshire high school and the new Miss Harvest Moon. That’s right, he was voted to be the pageant queen, as a cruel joke, but he werks it, strutting down the aisle in an orange tux and black pumps. That’s how we meet Chance, and henceforth his fabulousness cannot be denied.
Chance has always known he’s attracted to boys/men, but he’s still not clear on his gender identity. He struggles with his daily wardrobe–dress or pants–and he wants a boyfriend. A nice boyfriend. He kinda has his heart set on a boy from the vocational school, Jasper Donahue. “Jazz,” as Chance dubs him, is a burly boy with lots of responsibilities. He works to help support his mother and sister, and when he isn’t working, he’s babysitting his sister so his mom can work. Still, Chance is smitten, and he’s not even sure if Jazz swings his direction. Jazz seems to invite Chance’s attention, but there is no clear movement into Boyfriendland. All the discussions and intimate moments could be construed as simple friendliness.
So, Chance comes up with The Plan–well it’s more like The List for The Plan–of ten things to do to capture the heart of a boy. He spends weeks getting to know Jazz, hooking him in–if he can–and having hilarious misadventures. At the heart of this is a serious connection that Chance needs to make with himself, coming to terms with his gender and how that might affect a potential partner. Chance is a reliable narrator, and his narration is funny. He’s a diva, and his brilliance is often overwhelming to his objective: getting Jazz to love him. Thing is, he is super insecure, and that softens his manic edges. It’s a lot Notting Hill, with a boy standing in front of a boy, asking him to love him. This is a completely innocent book, sexually. The romance appears to be completely one-sided but it develops into a very tender friendship as Chance learns to love, and to give love, for no other reason than to help Jazz find happiness. Also, I enjoyed how Chance saw Jazz’s life, and how his privilege of money didn’t make for near as happy a home as Jazz’s criminally broke but bursting with love family.
I think the Love Spell part of it was rather short, and not the main focus, at all. It was great to walk through Chance’s gender-fluid shoes and get a better sense of the insecurity and frustration of not really KNOWING if he was a he-girl or a she-boy or somewhere in the middle, and I’m certain it will resonate with questioning teens. This is the second LGBTQ YA novel I’ve read from Ms. Kerick and the characters are always intense and sincere with real life plights that are honestly told. It took me a little time to settle into Chance’s voice because he’s got a flamboyant speech pattern, which is part of his quirky charm.
Interested? You can find LOVE SPELL on Goodreads, Amazon, Cool Dudes Publishing, and Barnes & Noble.
Thanks for popping in! Don’t forget to check out my fellow Coffeehouse reviewers, too!
14 thoughts on “Cephalopod Coffehouse July 2015–LOVE SPELL–A Review”
Chance sounds like a most endearing character.
He really was!
Intriguing story, too.
I thought so. I’ve seen this trope many times in M/F YA literature, so I was excited to see it for a gay teen.
One would think you’d see it more and perhaps we will as the genre matures.
Here’s a matter I have pondered in reading your posts: so much m/m fiction is written by straight women. There’s really no reason why they shouldn’t but I find it interesting that so many of them are drawn to it. It’s difficult enough to write about the opposite gender but throwing a different sexuality into the mix would, I imagine, add significantly to the challenge.
Mind you, there are plenty of gay men who’ve written capably about straight relationships. Noel Coward comes to mind, though one can often sense subtext in his stories.
Excellent point! Honestly, I have read several novels of gay men writing gay romance, but those stories are often–oddly perhaps–very much on the down-low regarding steamy scenes. Sex happens, but it’s sometimes only a perfunctory description, or a fade-to-black scenario. Lots of women crave sexy nitty-gritty in their romance, and that trend will not change, no matter who writes the stories.
So, female authors are often in the sweet-spot of writing both the “hawt sex” and the emotional connection, which the audience craves. Romance, as a genre, has a wide spectrum of steam, but there’s a reason why 50 Shades sold millions–and it wasn’t the writing, per se. The content, an ingenue under the tutelege of a sexy, powerful man, has been written a thousand times. But the odd alchemy of novelty (BDSM), a vulnerable monster, and lots and lots of (oftentimes objectionable) sex was a grand slam for women who crave escapism through fiction.
The pantheon of romance writing has long been a female domain, and I see M/M romance as a small sub-set of that overarching umbrella. Interestingly, as a member of SCBWI, I just received my e-newsletter advocating for more diversity in children’s literature, and mentioned in a place of prominence is inclusion of LGBT characters. So, with the trend toward inclusiveness, there are bound to be more straight female authors writing gay boys finding love. I like the idea, and have the kernel of a story brewing in my own brain… 😉
I think I worked with someone like him once. Very flamboyant, funny, even outrageous, but a big heart.
I often think the most outrageous people hide the most damage. Chance was so cripplingly lonely–but his outward front was of a put-together, take no nonsense guy. He’s bashed at school, but never lets the bullies break his spirit.
I don’t read YA books but it seems they have really taken off
or maybe I am just noticing them more.
Yep. YA fiction is here to stay! YAY!!! I still adore it even if my kids are the young adults in my home now… 😉
This is the second time I’ve read about ‘gender fluid’ another new word to get used to.
I am a big fan of the way our lexicon adapts! 🙂