Changing Jamie

Title: Changing Jamie
Author: Dakota Chase
Publisher: Harmony Ink
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Length: 184 pages
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

A guest review by Kris

The Blurb:

Jamie’s pretty much your average gay teenager. He’s not out with his folks, he’s got a crush on a fellow high school athlete, and his life isn’t perfect. It’s a good thing he has his friend, Billy, to take his mind off things, and to show him that all things are possible.

Billy seems to be all Jamie isn’t. Billy’s openly gay, he has enough money to follow fashion trends, and he’s got dates all the time. Lots of them. With older men. When Billy starts acting weird and hiding things from him, Jamie’s whole life seems to tilt off its axis.

His stepfather, who has never been the greatest role model, escalates his behavior until Jamie dreads going home. His English teacher assigns him tutoring sessions with the object of his crush, the gorgeous track star Dylan. Jamie’s not even sure he can talk to Dylan, let alone tutor him, but it’s impossible to talk to Billy about it. Billy’s too wrapped up in a very dangerous game they call bug chasing: trying to catch HIV.

Learning about Billy’s risk-taking nearly shatters their friendship, and forces Jamie to look at the world in a whole new way. Can Jamie try to keep Billy safe and still stay on top of homework, a new boyfriend, and keeping his step-father in line?

The Review:

Honesty from the outset~ I don’t recall reading anything by this author in the past and my 15 sec Google search couldn’t find a site for her/him.  Don’t you hate that.

First things first~

I really liked this book.  REALLY liked it.  I have to be honest and say one of the things I enjoyed the most about Changing Jamie, which can probably be said of my love for the YA genre as a whole, was it’s accessibility and uncomplicated nature.  This did not make it ‘ho hum’ by any stretch of the imagination, but rather a good, solid read focusing on the main character of Jamie and of the story of his coming of age.

The first two sentences of the blurb sum up Jamie very well.  He is just an average teenager dealing with problems at home, the pressures of his last year of high school and concerns associated with his sexuality.  Life becomes even more complicated for Jamie when he is assigned as a tutor to his secret crush Dylan, who may be even more interesting than Jamie dreamed.  At the same time his friendship with his best and only friend Billy; the one person who knows he is gay, falls into a heap by not only Billy’s treatment of Jamie, but the unbelievable secret he is hiding.  (More on the latter below.)

Jamie is an appealing main character.  I think he’s made even more so by the fact he really is just an ‘average’ guy to whom many readers will be able to relate.  He’s a bit of a loner, a bit geeky, a bit freaked about people finding out he is gay, a bit pissed at his Mum and Stepdad, a bit scared and angry about Billy, a bit anxious and excited about Dylan, a bit worried about his future after high school, etc, etc.  All in all, a bit angsty and dramatic – something which he himself recognises on occasion -, but really what teenager isn’t and don’t we all remember what that felt like! Therein, I think, lies the appeal of Jamie and this story.

The author has created a terrific foil for Jamie in the character of Dylan.  Although he is not without his own problems, Dylan provides Jamie with a sounding board and a support mechanism during the turbulent events of the story.  I really enjoyed the way the author was able to convey the strength and courage these young characters found in each other and in turn were able to take on board themselves. It reminded me that there are relationships; be they with family, friends or lovers, which impact you in big and little ways and can make you grow as a person.  It was such a great response to take away from a book.

A couple of issues/warnings~

I’d never heard of ‘bug chasing’ before I read about it in this book.  Quite frankly, the thought that there are a small number of gay men who, like the character of Billy, actively seek to become HIV positive horrifies me.  After I’d finished reading Changing Jamie I did some online research to try and find out more about this practice.  At the same time, I noticed there were a few readers who had criticised this author for not dealing with this topic in more depth.  From what was admittedly only a small amount of additional reading I did, and without going in to too much detail, I believe the author managed to highlight several of the main aspects of ‘bug chasing’ including possible reasons why some men choose this path.  Whilst s/he may not have decided to focus solely on this theme, to potentially dismiss Changing Jamie because of this negates the fact that it raises awareness in readers such as myself and in young adults.  That is a bloody good thing, IMHO.

As indicated above, some readers may have problems with this book in terms of the various themes and points of conflict it touches upon.  Yes, there were quite a few and, yes, maybe some of these could have been explored further and/or resolved less easily (for eg, the coming out to parents and later at school).  However, each served to progress the plot and assisted with character development.  Again, yes, perhaps the overall result will be too feel goody for some.  Yet, despite this, it worked for me.  I found this YA story very uplifting and was left with a sense of hope for, as well as confidence in, Jamie and his future.  What’s not too like about that.  🙂

My recommendation:

For those interested in reading a solid coming of age story with a strong HFN, I’ve no hesitation in recommending Changing Jamie to you.

6 comments

  • Off and on for 12 years I have taught students with severe emotional disturbances. For 14 years, I have taught or worked with H.S. students. Needless to say I have seen some really risky behaviors, but the one from above might just “take the cake”. If a student had come to me with the above before I was aware of its existence, I would have really struggled to keep all the shocked emotions from flickering across my face.

    Reply
    • Hi Cathleen. Yes, it is very shocking, isn’t it. I couldn’t quite believe it when it first came up in the story and then the explanation about it… Dear God. You can imagine that young people would be quite vulnerable to something like this, though, if they thought it might make them accepted as part of a group or because the person they love is HIV positive. It’s very scary.

      Reply
  • Kris
    This is an excellent review. I had never heard about bug chasing before which just shows how little I know.

     
    This story sounds very complicated with the number of issues tackled in a book that’s under 200 pages, yet you feel that the author managed to address most of them. While not all of them were resolved satisfactorily you still liked the way the book ended? It must have been extremely well written to have pleased you so much.

     
    Maybe I should invest some time to read this one and put it in my TBR pile.

    Reply
    • Thanks Wave.

      Isn’t it odd that some of us have been reading all this m/m, but have not come across ‘bug chasing’ before now?? It just seems so strange.

      It is actually not a complicated story if you are asking whether it was convoluted or hard to follow, etc. There is, however, quite a few things that happen to or around Jamie during the course of the novel.

      It’s also not that the issues weren’t resolved satisfactorily for me as a reader, but that I thought – and I think some readers may also feel – a few of them could have been explored/fleshed out in further detail. Made even more meatier than they were, I guess is what I’m saying. Does that make sense?

      Regardless, yes, the story did please me very much. I thought the writing was very solid, but even more than that I connected strongly with Jamie and therefore was really happy with the outcome. Changing Jamie gave good reader response. 🙂

      Reply
  • I was am familiar with bug chasing (not on a first hand basis thank god) but I find it very sad and scary that some men feel compelled to seek out a fatal disease. Sounds like a good read though, I like it in YA when the hero is just a guy/kid. I think most of us can relate to being that person. Great review.

    Reply
    • Thanks Tam.

      Slightly off topic – Thinking about it and talking about it with the Mumma, I think it was/is particularly pertinent to incorporate the issue of bug chasing in a YA, especially given the fact that it is often at this confusing time when we deal with questions about our identity and our sexuality.

      I did not find the information during my research but I could easily believe that a high percentage of those practicing this lifestyle could be young men dealing with such issues. Therefore making young people aware that bug chasing exists and there are broader picture/ramifications to consider is very important in my opinion.

      Ok, getting off the soapbox now to say that I agree with you about most of us being able to relate to the teenage coming of age story because we all remember our own journeys. I think that’s just one of the many reasons why I like YA so much.

      Reply

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