Title: Sex, Love, and Videogames
Author Name & Publisher: CJane Elliott (Dreamspinner Press)
Publication Date & Length: August 21, 2015 – 264 pgs
Shy guy Jed Carter has always felt invisible next to his charismatic older brother, Kent. Kent’s master plan for Jed is simple: University of Virginia, business, sports, and ladies’ man. None of it is Jed, except for playing on the rugby team, which he joins in defiance of soccer-loving Kent. Jed comes out in his sophomore year and starts seeing Pete, an attractive junior, who uses him for sex and videogames. Jed wants more—in life and in love—and starts making his own plans. First on the list: getting to know Charlie, the handsome guy working at the local videogame arcade.
Charlie Ambrose has always felt like an oddball, and not just for his tendency to stutter. Being gay sets him apart from his African-American community, and as a “townie,” he doesn’t fit in with the college crowd. Charlie’s inspiration is his cousin, Morocco, who’s transgender and doesn’t give a fig about fitting in. Art is Charlie’s passion, and when a local videogame designer discovers him, Charlie’s living a dream. The only thing he’s missing is love. But the last person Charlie expects to find it with is a cute, white U.Va. rugby player named Jed.
This is a hard one for me to review because I’m not sure how I feel about it. On the positive side, I loved the characters. Jed and Charlie were both so likable, and their close friends were wonderful. I loved Myesha, and Morocco was a lot of fun. Both guys had many supportive friends around them, and I liked their families, too.
I loved the multicultural aspects of the story. I’m always happy to see more stories featuring characters who are not only white and middle class, and I love books with great trans characters. This book gets a win on that front.
Another thing I liked was that it wasn’t a traditional romance, and that wasn’t the only thing going on. I don’t need my love stories to focus exclusively on the relationship–in fact, I’d rather they not. So another plus.
On the other hand, there were a lot of things I struggled with about this book. For one thing, there was really no plot. A lot of things happened, but there was no running thread from start to finish other than various versions of people being closeted. There were a lot of loose ends, which I’m not sure relates to this being part of a series or if they really just won’t ever be resolved. I was bored for a lot of this book–the relationship between Jed and Charlie didn’t even start until 2/3 of the way in; they had almost nothing to do with each other before then. It was odd, given that, how they had instant love and declared “forever” at twenty or twenty-one.
I was really wary of the portrayal of the only “bisexual” characters. They seemed to be stereotypes and reinforced some negative things–that Black bisexual men are “on the down-low” and are responsible for spreading STIs to gay men and straight women and that white guys are “mostly straight” but like to have sex with men sometimes (and will probably lie to and cheat on their girlfriends/wives). I’m sure this wasn’t intentional, but it is something the bisexual community is actively working to change, so it upset me to see it shown in the book without anything to balance or challenge it.
In the end, I’m glad I read this, but I don’t think it was the book for me.
“Okay, warm up laps!” Beau led the rugby team in a slow circuit around the perimeter of Mad Bowl. After a few laps, he stopped and had them do stretching exercises.
The other team did their warming up, and when they moved to take positions, Jed noticed a pair of people standing on the sidelines. His breathing stopped for a second. Charlie stood, hands in his pockets, shifting from foot to foot, while Morocco, a vision in a pink track suit, set up a camp chair (apt name, that) and sat down. Morocco saw Jed looking and waved. Charlie turned and gave a small wave himself, and Jed waved back, heart beating faster.
“Who’re they?” Bud asked, squinting over at them.
“Um, Charlie’s a guy who works at Lucky’s. In the gaming area. And the other is his cousin.”
“Um, well, about that….” Jed cut himself off because the referee blew the whistle. Time to play ball and hope he did well in front of those two.
The game proved the usual testosterone-fest, with lots of grunting and body contact. When Jed scored some points, Morocco produced pom poms that matched her outfit and waved them wildly.
At the break, Jed ran over to them for a minute to say hi—fuck what the rest of the team thought.
“Jed, child, my word!” Morocco fanned her chest. “Y’all are such manly men! Rugby is going to be my new obsession, I just know it!”
“I like it. My mom never let me play contact sports in high school, so I kinda love ramming into people.” Jed felt his cheeks flame at what he had said. Crap-a-doodle.
But Morocco laughed and Charlie faked a cough so he could smile behind his fist.
“So, hey, thanks for coming. I gotta go back now.”
Charlie nodded as Morocco said, “We’ll see you after the game.” She picked up her pom poms. “Wa-hoo-wa!”
When the team huddled before the second half, a homophobe named Welburn said with a sneer, “Who are those freaks on the sidelines?”
Another guy laughed. “Yeah. I thought all the he-shes lived in San Francisco.”
“What’re you talking about?” Bud peered over toward Charlie and Morocco. “That girl?”
Welburn spit on the ground. “That girl is no she. She’s a he. What the hell are they doing here?”
Beau raised his voice. “Hey, concentrate, guys. We need to win this game.”
Jed held up a hand to stop Beau from continuing. “Before we do that, you all need to know that those are some friends of mine. So shut your fucking faces before I shut them for you.” He leveled a lethal glare at Welburn and his compatriot.
Fueled by his anger, Jed played an amazing second half, and the team pulled out a victory on the strength of his points alone. After their team high five, he trotted over to Charlie and Morocco. Charlie smiled broadly while Morocco jumped up and down. “Jed, Jed, Jed! Wa-hoo-wa! Thass right!”
“Okay, okay.” Jed couldn’t help laughing at Morocco’s outrageous enthusiasm. “Thanks for coming to the game.”
“It was fun. I’m glad we came.” Charlie took a step back, seemingly surprised to have gotten two stutter-free sentences out.
“I’m glad too.” They gazed tentatively at each other, and Morocco suddenly got busy folding up the camp chair.
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