Fan Art - Sarah Tregay

Sarah Tregay's Fan Art is a satisfying read for teens, both queer and not. 

This contemporary romance follows Jamie Peterson, a boy getting swept up in prom fever, and he has a problem. Jamie doesn't have a date! But Jamie also has another problem, he's in love with his best friend, and he doesn't necessarily want to admit it. Not to anyone. But a lot of his peers seem to know how he feels about Mason whether he wants them to or not. I love this quote from the cover synopsis: "Love is easy, except when it's not...."

Jamie and Mason have a complex relationship that I feel Tregay manages to explore with a lot of feeling and honesty. I think these sorts of stories (with one person in love with a friend) are so important, because they test the limits of friendship, love, acceptance, truth, and the ability to be honest with those who matter in life. 
[E]veryone knows friend crushes are the worst—even guy-girl friend crushes—drama, angst, broken hearts, you name it. It's bad—real bad. And straight-guy-gay-guy friend crushes? I don't even want to think about that apocalypse.
I always hope that I will love a book unconditionally, but unfortunately a part of reviewing usually entails finding those details that don't necessarily work. In this case, my biggest complaint is that the middle section of the book feels repetitive and hits a bit of a lull. Jamie and Mason's friendship is continually examined, but Jamie seems to keep asking and answering the same questions over and over again (and while I know that's a part of life, it doesn't always play out well in a narrative.) 

There are also some stereotypes that the narratives plays off of. For example, the idea that gay guys dress well and that they like musicals:
I'm pretty invisible. I never wear nice clothes, just my ringer T-shirts and jeans, slightly baggy and a bit boring. I've never been in drama club. The closest I've ever been to a Broadway musical was playing the trumpet in the orchestra for The Music Man.
Some of the secondary characters fall a bit flat as well. The girls all seem pretty giggly and simplistic in their portrayals, and the stereotype of girls all wanting to hang around gay boys is taken almost to an extreme by the end. But it truly is Jamie and Mason that readers will care the most about, and Tregay gives them the attention they deserve.

Jamie's descriptions of Mason are heartbreaking. The reader will feel his desire to both be honest with Mason, and also his legitimate fears of coming clean. The sadness behind the descriptive phrases will cause the audience to want to reach out and comfort him in his longing:
Under his glasses, mop of curls, and total lack of fashion sense is a square jaw, a straight nose, and an amazing smile. And, well, totally kissable lips. Mason. Is. Not. Cute. Not cute. Not cute. I chant in my mind as I splash more cold water on my face . . .
The description of Jamie's coming-out is both moving and also very typical (in terms of his feeling of being ill, and his inner struggle to tell his mother.) Her acceptance can feel either too convenient, or like so many gay kids hope their parents will react:
She started crying, and I thought it was because she was upset. No one wants a gay kid, right? All parents want is weddings and daughters-in-law and grandchildren, right? Well, no. My mom was happy about it!
Poems break up the novel every once in a while, played out in the novel as submissions to a literary magazine at the school. Some readers may find themselves distracted by the poetry breaks, but I felt they worked into the overall structure of the text relatively smoothly.

The ending . . . I love the ending of this book. It's sweet, and beautiful, and sappy, but it left me feeling satisfied rather than feeling like I'd drunk a giant bottle of sugary syrup. It's a great payoff for the struggles and tribulations that Mason and Jamie faced off against throughout the rest of the book. I hope this book makes it into the hands of LGBT young people who have crushes on friends, or who are having a hard time coming out in school, because while it is not always simple and care-free, things are not always doom and gloom either. Happy reading!

Recommended

(Note: This review is from an Advanced Reading Copy - Out June 17, 2014)

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