by Sarah Tregay
Released on: June 17th, 2014
Published by: Katherine Tegen
Rating: 0 stars, 1 star, 1.5 stars
Word rating: BAAAAAAA
Reviewed by: Ellis, Blythe and Mel
When the picture tells the story…
Senior year is almost over, and Jamie Peterson has a big problem. Not college—that’s all set. Not prom—he’ll find a date somehow. No, it’s the worst problem of all: he’s fallen for his best friend.
As much as Jamie tries to keep it under wraps, everyone seems to know where his affections lie, and the giggling girls in art class are determined to help Jamie get together with Mason. But Jamie isn’t sure if that’s what he wants—because as much as Jamie would like to come clean to Mason, what if the truth ruins everything? What if there are no more road trips, taco dinners, or movie nights? Does he dare risk a childhood friendship for romance?
This book is about what happens when a picture reveals what we can’t say, when art is truer than life, and how falling in love is easy, except when it’s not. Fan Art explores the joys and pains of friendship, of pressing boundaries, and how facing our worst fears can sometimes lead us to what we want most.
This discussion review contains minor spoilers.
Ellis: This book was just terribad.
Blythe: I think it might be the worst book I've read this year.
Ellis: Definitely one of the most infuriating.
Mel: I didn't hate it as much as you guys did, but definitely terrible in general. Definitely the worst LGBTQ+ I’ve read.
Blythe: Absolutely the worst LGBT I’ve read. I can't imagine there being any other LGBT novel out there worse than this, honestly.
Ellis: Maybe one with a bunch of Jamies.
Blythe: Like a Jamie orgy where everyone just judges each other and leaves by the end of the novel. Just … Jamie, you guys. Jamie.
Mel: There's the letting out a breath I didn't realise I was holding in here, too.
Ellis: YES. First chapter. That’s when I should have known this wouldn't turn out well.
Blythe: Let's just get this all out of the way: I hated Jamie. A lot. Everyone else seemed to love Jamie, but I really, really wanted to punch him. So much.
Ellis: SAME. He was constantly declaring he wasn’t one of those “stereotypical gays”, because he was *masculine*. How LGBTQ+ positive.
"I never had baby dolls, never played dress up in my mom's high heels, and never wanted to join the cheerleading squad, so it wasn't like my mom knew I was gay."
Blythe: BUT HE MUST BE MASCULINE, ELLIS. God forbid he embody stereotypes which he only perpetuates throughout the novel. Our Jamie is special and doesn't play with dolls or like high heels, he plays football! (But first off, get over yourself, Jamie. You played football once in the novel. You’re not the fucking spokesmodel for masculinity.)
Ellis: I have one pro re: LGBTQ+ representation and that is that there's no bi erasure. At the end, when Jamie wonders whether Mason might be queer, he does mention the option of Mason being bi. That's a small plus.
Blythe: I had one pro, that being supportive parents, but Jamie managed to turn that into something to complain about.
Mel: He makes everything good into something to hate.
Blythe: That's his entire character. And the entire plot of the novel hinges on how Mason will react to him being gay. But there was literally no indication that he would react negatively?
Ellis: Exactly, but for some reason he kept thinking he would. The conflict was very forced, in my opinion. There was just a general lack of plot and I also think it had the wrong focus. The blurb made it sound like the magazine would be the main issue, but it gets pushed waaaaay back in favour of some conflict Jamie made up in his head and isn't even really an issue. And then after 70% it suddenly comes up again.
Blythe: Please, the magazine was a minor focus throughout.
Mel: Exactly. Nothing happens apart from Jamie fretting.
Blythe: Nothing but worrying and complaining over a pretty much nonexistent conflict. There is NO REASON this book had to be nearly 400 pages. Absolutely NONE. And sure, for the comic/magazine portion of the novel (around which it is named after, but takes up about 50 pages) it would have been nice to have a LGBT comic in the magazine, but the COMIC WAS AWFUL. All of the people who didn't want the comic in the magazine said it had no plot and all these reasons, but I agreed with them. So there goes that aspect of the plot. And then Jamie cries homophobia. (Which, admittedly, it was in some cases.)
Mel: Because that’s what he does best.
Blythe: Gah, Jamie, it's not always because that the people are homophobic and don't want the comic in there because of that. Sometimes it was, yes. But the comic was terrible. They don’t want to publish crap.
Ellis: The whole comic issue is a bit meta, because people didn't want it in due to the lack of plot, but he wanted to save it for its LGBTQ+ representation. And that's exactly the issue of this book, too: no plot whatsoever but we’re supposed to love it because gay protagonist, even though the messages towards homosexuality in general are very problematic.
"If there's one thing that girls--gay or straight--like, it's gay boys."
Blythe: You mentioned problematic? Because that is the characterization pretty much all of the girls in the novel are built upon.
Blythe: You'd think an LGBT novel would try its hardest to stray from using stereotypes to define its characters but that's ALL this novel manages to accomplish. I'm glad so many people love this and think it's adorable, but it's so incredibly problematic. All the characters and every single aspect of the world are built upon stereotypes.
“He's one of those black kids everyone thinks should play basketball just because [he's tall]."
Blythe: More problematic characterization! Basically, for an LGBT book, Fan Art has REALLY shitty representation of minorities. Jamie always describes the POC character in terms of racial stereotypes. Then said POC says about 14 lines in the entire novel, most of which are about five words. I counted.
Mel: Yet it looked so promising.
Ellis: There wasn't much depth to any of these characters. Challis and Eden were basically just names.
Mason is a big hot fudge cake Jamie thinks he can't have. This is legit how he thinks.
Mel: I felt like Mason was just a name as well, to be honest.
Blythe: Mason was a plot device. Everyone was a plot device for Jamie. Jamie was a plot device for Jamie. It's like Inception but with gays and I want to burn it.
Ellis: Not to mention he always describes Mason's colouring in terms of food. "The chocolate-cake softness of his eyes", "his hot fudge eyes", etc.
Mel: Ugh, YES. The stereotyping was some of THE WORST EVER.
Blythe: I think I might have more stereotypes, like the Redneck who was homophobic. Because of course.
Ellis: And it didn't help that it was only pro-gay. And when I mean pro-gay, I mean "masculine gays" at that.
Blythe: Yeah, none of those stereotypical gays according to Jamie--you know, dolls, high heels, make up, cheerleading. The usual gay stuff.
Ellis: Oh yeah, none of the *girly* gays, because girls are icky.
"Woo-hoo!” Challis leaps off her desk and opens her arms as if she's going to hug me. But then she stops, as if she thinks twice. I wipe the unintentional girls-are-icky look from my face and open my arms.
Ellis: So the way I'm interpreting this it's that he unintentionally has this look because it's his default expression.
Mel: Makes sense since he's always hating on girls.
Blythe: ALWAYS. All he does is hate on girls and judge on lesbians, but because he's gay it's okay? Yeah, sure.
Ellis: It was ridiculous how he kept giving reasons why he wasn't dating girls. I threw a fit when Eden and Challis were like "omg Jamie you're such a good person" at the end.
Blythe: HE IS NOT. HE IS NOT A GOOD PERSON. ALL HE DOES IS JUDGE YOU FOR YOUR SEXUALITY BECAUSE YOU'RE DIFFERENT FROM HIM. And yeah, we know you don’t date girls, Jamie. That’s why we’re reading this book.
Ellis: He was 100% the wrong protagonist for this.
Blythe: He was honestly one of the most unpleasant protagonists I've read in a while. THE STORY SHOULD HAVE BEEN ABOUT ANYONE BUT JAMIE. ANYONE.
Ellis: I lost it when he said “Eden calms down a notch” in interior monologue. That’s not how people think. He always disrespects his girl sort-of friends because HYSTERICAL WOMEN ARE HYSTERICAL AMIRITE.
Blythe: Add that with being gay and we've got the most hysterical women in this book. Teenage girls, right?
"Instead DeMarco and I head to the kitchen in search of more drinks. We both get fresh sodas and munch on pretzels with Brodie and Kellen, while complaining about the upcoming exams."
Ellis: So basically Jamie goes to cool parties to hang out with the popular crowd and complain about exams. What a wild child.
Blythe: And we're TOLD he's complaining about the exams. Not like I'd need to read about more of Jamie's complaining, but quite literally everything in the novel is told to us.
Mel: Exactly, pretty much everything was told, not shown. The dialogue was just plain bad. It was unrealistic and forced.
Blythe: The dialogue was absolutely painful.
Ellis: Everything was absolutely painful. I also think that Jamie's interior monologue sounds very artificial at times. She wanted to make him sound cool and edgy, but it just fails.
Blythe: Can't make him sound not-cool and -edgy because then he might sound gay. And we don't want that. He certainly doesn’t.
Ellis: But like a masculine gay.
Blythe: The most masculine. And then the Redneck was trying to pull a Carrie at the graduation. I WAS DYING. WHAT WERE THEY EVEN DOING.
Ellis: Graduation was A MESSSSSSS. LOOK GUYS I HAVE REMEMBERED WHAT PLOT AND CONFLICT IS LET ME THROW IT IN REAL QUICK.
Blythe: And also, jumping around a bit but with the conflicts, I just really hated how Jamie acted like it was a bad thing that his stepfather was involved in his life. His mother, no complaints. But once his stepfather tries to get him a decent job for the summer, Jamie loses it.
Ellis: He kept insisting that was not his "real" father, even though he's been nothing but supportive.
Blythe: Which I get and I’m sure is realistic, but his stepfather was supportive as hell of him. Meanwhile, his two best friends have the exact OPPOSITE of supportive parents, but he complains to them about his parents who threw him a fucking party for coming out.
Ellis: I got so mad when Mason told him he was kicked out because the story should have been about that. It should have been about Mason who faces real challenges, instead of some manufactured conflict that only exists in Jamie's head.
Mel: I'm definitely for anything apart from Jamie.
Ellis: Ugh, and the fake curses.
Blythe: THE FAKE CURSES. I PROMISE YOU, high school seniors do NOT say "frigging" or "effing" or "I'm joshing you”. PROMISE.
Mel: Who even says that these days?
Blythe: Jamie and Mason and Challis and the really annoying friend, who says "Oh. My. Gaga" and whatnot. Because authenticity.
Ellis: Eden. The girl he fake-dates. And again, it was extremely annoying how he kept giving reasons why he wasn't dating girls. Dude, you’re gay. You don’t need to convince us. We believe you. I don’t think he does, though. I sort of hate you for giving Homophobey the Dinosaur as an option because I was really hoping he'd make an appearance.
Blythe: Well, Ellis, I didn’t believe him; he doesn’t like cheerleading or dolls. It was very shell-shocking for me to see a gay person who is not like that. And I’m still holding out on a sequel from Mason's point of view about his realization that he's made a huge mistake. 500 pages, coming out (GET IT) from HarperTeen in 2015. And ah, yes, Homophobey the Dinosaur; at the end of Fan Art, a homophobic dinosaur comes and eats all the gays in the world except for Jamie, because he so doesn't come off as gay because EDGY MASCULINE DOESN'T LIKE DOLLS. So then he's the only gay left and it ends like that as he screams "NO!!!!!!!" into the sky.
Ellis: To be fair, Jamie is the residential homophobic dinosaur.