Title: How to Repair a Mechanical Heart
Author: J.C. Lillis
Cover Artist: ?
Buy Links: Amazon
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary;
Length: Novel (255 pages)
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by LenaLena
Review Summary: This road trip to self-acceptance set in the world of Fandom is a must read. Even if you never read YA.
Eighteen-year-old Castaway Planet fans Brandon and Abel hate bad fan fiction—especially when it pairs their number-one TV crushes of all time, dashing space captain Cadmus and dapper android Sim. As co-runners of the Internet’s third most popular Castaway Planet vlog, they love to spar with the “Cadsim” fangirls who think Cadmus will melt Sim’s mechanical heart by the Season 5 finale. This summer, Brandon and Abel have a mission: hit the road in an RV to follow the traveling Castaway Planet convention, interview the actors and showrunner, and uncover proof that a legit Cadsim romance will NEVER, EVER HAPPEN.
A Brandon and Abel romance: also not happening. Brandon’s sick of his struggle to make “gay and Catholic” compute, so it’s safer to love a TV android. Plus Abel’s got a hot new boyfriend with a phoenix tattoo, and how can Brandon compete with that? But when mysterious messages about them start popping up in the fan community, they make a shocking discovery that slowly forces their real feelings to the surface. Before they get to the last Castaway Planet convention, Brandon’s going to find out the truth: can a mechanical heart be reprogrammed, or will his first shot at love be a full system failure?
I doubt you have read anything like ‘How to Repair a Mechanical Heart’ before. If you’ve ever been in any fandom at all, whether it was old school through an email listserv or more recently, following the latest drama through twitter and tumblr, you’ll appreciate this book. If you’ve read fanfiction, been sucked into flame wars about whether the OTP that you ship will ever be canon or is doomed to be fanon only, if you have folders of pictures, gifsets and memes of your OTP on your hard drive, if you hunt down fanvids on youtube while you should be sleeping, if you have been geek enough to attended ComicCon or other fan conventions, this book will make you lol. If none of what I just said made any sense to you, I recommend urban dictionary and really: you should branch out. There is some lovely Drarry (Draco+Harry) and Stony (Steve Rogers+Tony Stark) fiction out there, not to mention Sterek, Merthur, Johnlock, McShep, Thorki, J2, Wincest, 00Q or whatever you want. Ever watched a show or movie and thought: ‘really, those dudes should get together’? I’ll bet you $100 somebody else thought so too and wrote, drew, photoshopped or vlogged about it.
So this world of Fandom is the setting for ‘How to Repair a Mechanical Heart’. Brandon, Abel and Bec set out on a road trip to attend all the upcoming conventions for their favorite show ‘Castaway Planet’, video blogging all the way. While that might actually have been enough to carry a good story, there is much, much more to this one. The story is told through Brandon’s eyes and Brandon, though he has come out to his family, has issues. Particularly with his inner voice that keeps up a running commentary of Catholic Guilt. Interestingly, it isn’t that Brandon thinks that God or Father Mike or his family hates him, because they don’t. Brandon is struggling with being a disappointment to his family and his community. He is being pulled apart by the need to belong to the community he grew up in and the need to be accepted, and happy, as a gay boy.
Also, he has an unrequited crush on Abel. Abel, who is funny and flamboyant and irreverent and doesn’t believe in any of the stuff that Brandon struggles with. Except, of course, the belief that the stupid fangirls need to stop shipping the heroes of ‘Castaway Planet’, because jfc, not all bromances are meant to be romances! Which is why they are on this road trip in Brandon’s family RV. Brandon may have neglected to tell his family that it isn’t just his BFF Bec who is traveling with him (and that there really, really is no chance that he and Bec will find hetero happiness on this trip).
When it turns out that there are fans of the vlog out there who ship Brandon and Abel, who write actual fanfiction about them getting together, all of a sudden Abel doesn’t seem so out of reach anymore and a whole ‘nother pit of snakes opens up. Now what? If you want to find out you will have to read about the Church of Abandon’s Summer of Love. And Summer of Self-Discovery, and Self-Acceptance.
The voice of this book is unique and engaging. It is really funny at times and moving at others. It ends happy, but not in any OTT unrealistic ways. My only niggle is that the guilt thing is a little heavy handed at times and that the boys read a little young for being out of high school. And it would have been even more fun if there had been a tumblr version of this book, complete with nsfw fanart and animated gifsets. The masterful way in which all the elements in this story are woven together, with quite a few surprises thrown in for good measure, makes me want to grab everyone who has ever been a fan of anything by the collar and shout at them: READ THIS!
Even if you never really read YA, make an exception for this one.