GUEST REVIEW: Love Spell by Mia Kerick

I was given a copy of this book for free in order to receive a fair and honest review. My receiving this book in no way affects my opinion of the story. This review was done by guest review Alexa Graham. Follow her blog for more on her.


TITLE: Love Spell

AUTHOR: Mia Kerick

GENRE: Young Adult, LGBT, Romance

TAG LINE: Quirky, comical, definitely flamboyant, and with an inner core of poignancy, Love Spell celebrates the diversity of a gender-fluid teen.

REVIEW: 3 Stars

SUMMARY: 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.

REVIEW: 

Mia Kerick’s Love Spell is a quirky, entertaining read, and one that addresses issues that are drastically underrepresented in YA fiction. The main character, high school senior Chance Cesar, not only identifies as homosexual, but also as a person struggling with their own gender identity. That makes dating in a rural New Hampshire town a lot more complicated, especially when Chance falls for the quietly sweet Jasper “Jazz” Donahue. But to approach Jazz as male or female? And how to do either when Chance isn’t sure which one they are? Love Spell doesn’t necessarily answer that question and doesn’t have to; it is a sweet tale about love, friendship, coming out, and being true to yourself.

 

One of the best things about Love Spell is its humor. Chance’s voice is sarcastic and drop-dead funny, though sometimes overly flamboyant. There are definitely some great one-liners in this story–some that will make you literally laugh out loud. However, the most compelling writing is when Chance struggles internally with their gender identification. One of the best things Kerick does here is show us how agonizing everyday life can be for genderfluid and genderqueer persons who are still questioning their identity and gender expression. Chance serves as the perfect vessel to question societal standards on the issue, wherein it is seen as “normal” for people to be strictly male or female and “abnormal” to be otherwise.

 

One of the issues that I had with this story is that the writing is so strong in these moments of reflection, but weak in others. These quiet moments alone with Chance make us love them, but then they pull a complete 180 and make us question that; Chance is rude, self-centered, and can be extremely inconsiderate of others’ feelings. There is also a blatant stereotyping [of homosexuals] that can at times be borderline offensive. In addition, the language itself is a complicated issue, wherein the slang is overused (which will not only alienate some readers, but also not hold up well over time) and the swearing is simply ostentatious. Seriously, there is so much swearing in this book that I had to triple check to make sure this was YA. I don’t think I’ve ever read a young adult novel with so many f-bombs in my life. Though I understand high schoolers speak this way (for the record, I did too, and still swear like a sailor) but I think that toning that language down would have been a better strategy.

 

Another issue I have is the integration of the title in the story. The “love spell” does not even feature until the last 30-45 pages of the book, and by that point, it feels like an afterthought. I think that Kerick was trying to stick to the Halloween-esque theme she presented at the beginning of the book, but it fell flat by this point. The “spell” business does not offer anything to to the plot of the book except additional word count.

 

(My final comment on the book is a bit minute and silly, but something someone should have caught: honestly, you can’t play Apples to Apples with just two people. Just saying.)

 

Overall, the book certainly delivered in entertainment and touched on something very little YA is focused on now: the struggles of a genderfluid teen. But did it represent both male homosexuality and genderqueerness properly, without shaming or resulting to stereotyping? That will be up to the reader to decide.

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