Title: Love Spell
Author Name: Mia Kerick
Publication Date & Length: June 1, 2015 – 44,300 Words
Strutting his stuff on the catwalk in black patent leather pumps and a snug orange tuxedo as this year’s Miss (ter) Harvest Moon feels so very right to Chance César, and yet he knows it should feel so very wrong.
As far back as he can remember, Chance has been “caught between genders.” (It’s quite a touchy subject; so don’t ask him about it.) However, he does not question his sexual orientation. Chance has no doubt about his gayness—he is very much out of the closet at his rural New Hampshire high school, where the other students avoid the kid they refer to as “girl-boy.” But at the local Harvest Moon Festival, when Chance, the Pumpkin Pageant Queen, meets Jasper Donahue, the Pumpkin Carving King, sparks fly. So Chance sets out, with the help of his BFF, Emily, to make “Jazz” Donahue his man.
An article in an online women’s magazine, Ten Scientifically Proven Ways to Make a Man Fall in Love with You (with a bonus love spell thrown in for good measure), becomes the basis of their strategy to capture Jazz’s heart.
Quirky, comical, definitely flamboyant, and with an inner core of poignancy, Love Spell celebrates the diversity of a gender-fluid teen.
Fans of John Green’s books will really enjoy the honest teen voices in this story. The relationships between Emily and Chance and Chance and Jasper are beautifully written. The gritty realism of Jasper’s life contrasts brutally with the more superficial problems plaguing Emily and Chance.
Young adult books have come so far – this is a gem and it is a pleasure to read.
Unfortunately, this was a great idea with poor execution. Most of the characters came across as stereotypes. Chance felt a lot more like a Hollywood gay cliche than a genderqueer kid. I liked how he was just his own person, but unfortunately, it mostly served to make him seem far removed from his peers. I was disappointed that Jazz, too, felt like a stereotype of a working-class kid, complete with being in the tech school (as though rich kids can’t be in tech school and poor kids must be). Emily ended up feeling like a flat character and a prop for Chance rather than a person in her own right.
The writing itself was very challenging. It is full of text-speak/text-spelling and adolescent “lingo” that felt over-the-top and unrealistic. If that had been toned down a lot, I think it would have been more enjoyable just on that alone.
The best parts of this were Chance’s musings about his gender. There was some great, brutally honest stuff in there, and his own self-discovery was excellent. I wish that had been drawn out more and explored in more ways than mostly his fashion choices. At times, his thoughts actually came across as sexist and like gender lines in the sand (such as being “emotional” equating to femininity, referring to breasts as “fashion accessories,” or “hanging out and talking” being a guy thing). When he was honest about how he felt about his identity, it became much less of a stereotype and much more natural and real.
I would be hesitant to give this to a person struggling with gender identity. It felt like the story tried to do too much in too small a space. I’m not convinced it’s the best or most realistic expression of gender identity issues. Despite that, there was some fun to be had, and the storyline itself was sweet, with a decent payoff at the end.