Shipping Out

Fan Art - Sarah Tregay

This really should have been called "I Love You,  Man," which is its running phrase. The boys at Jamie's high school throw the phrase around all the time. But Jamie really wants to say it to one particular boy -- his best friend, Mason. Jamie's out at home, but still closeted at school, and he can never seem to nerve himself up to tell Mason the truth. When a manga-style comic about two boys kissing is rejected from the school literary magazine, Jamie is upset enough to take action, in an underhanded way. But he fears that doing so will expose him and change everything forever.

I found this a pleasant read,  but somewhat baffling. It's very similar, thematically,  to to How to Repair a Mechanical Heart, a book I adored, but what worked there never quite came off here -- specifically, teenage girls doing real life "shipping" of boys. The treatment here felt stereotyped and kind of icky, without the sense of genuine insight into slash and fan culture, and I never entirely got what was going on. The book is narrated by Jamie (first person, present tense) and he's kind of bewildered by the whole experience, but I didn't want to be bewildered as a reader.

My favorite part of the book was Jamie's loving interactions with his little twin sisters. His ambivalent feelings about his over-enthusiastically supportive parents also seemed very realistic -- I couldn't help but envision the "coming out party" his stepfather threw for him as a youtube link that would make everyone go "awwwww," while Jamie himself was writhing in embarrassment.