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 (and 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.
I saw the blurb on this one and was pulled in by wanting to see what happens in this curious story about a teen who is still figuring stuff out. I’ve never read a story about a gender fluid person, but I have known one. And this person was a teen at the time and they struggled, painfully. While this story makes it clear that such a life is hard and confusing, it is also told with a lighter touch full of hope. I was really cheering on Chance to find the way to contentment and some happy.
The story opens with Chance Cesare, a flaming gay teen, in tight pumpkin colored tuxedo and spiky matching hair strutting down the Miss Harvest Moon Festival runway. He is not ashamed of his feminine side and will show all those who voted him in for a joke that he is a true, gracious, poised winner. His small town in New Hampshire may not know what to think of Chance, his parents are indifferent to him, and he is the joke of his high school and butt of the bully’s jokes, but he holds his head high, smiles, laughs, and shows the world what inner strength really is.
Now if he has an aversion to any discussion or thoughts about gender particularly with his outspoken best friend or anyone else? Nobody’s perfect. Chance has never fit into any box or label. He wishes it were that simple. Who wants to go through life not having everything fixed and settled about themselves? He wished he knew. He? She? He wouldn’t care either way, but Chance is somewhere in the middle and he ties this confusion in with confusion about everything in his future.
But then he encounters Jasper. Jasper’s easygoing, accepting nature stymies Chance. Is Jazz just friendly or his he gay, is Chance his brand of gay if he is? Chance decides to make Jasper his project and goes on line finding ten steps to making a guy fall in love with you. Chance is confident that with his charisma, taste, style, and skills, Jazz is a shoe-in. Except those last steps of ‘being yourself’ and ‘being a friend’ are merely optional, right? Much better to cast a lovespell than those lame steps.
So, this was told in a light, sassy style with Chance as the narrator. His internal monologues and his dialogues are pure teen talk just as his reasoning and everything else about him. I thought the author did a good job of writing her characters and their world. This book is all Chance and rises or falls on how well the reader can connect with him. I adored him and was rooting for him from page one.
Chance is a brilliant, warm, and sweet person though he can serve up sarcasm and smart-butt pretty thick as his defense mechanism. It is amazing how he has turned out considering his parents have always been indifferent. He lives with them, they provide for him, but there is no nurturing. So sad. Others do feel strongly about him and he’s bullied or treated like a pariah though there are a few that tentatively try or at least stay neutral. Chance has one loyal, good friend who is also bullied for her geekiness and her weight. Neither seems to care what others think as long as they are in the same corner. I liked seeing them care and confront each other when necessary.
The dynamics change right at the beginning of the story. Chance is one confused guy and I’m not just referring to his need to figure stuff out with his gender. He sees Jasper and crushes on him, but struggles to approach Jasper. Chance can think circles around most people and finds it easy to interact until he encounters someone he really cares about what Jasper thinks. He is scared that Jasper won’t like Chance stripped of the persona he wears in public so he finds anything a better way than just being real and himself when it comes to Jasper. It is humorous, heartwarming, and a little bittersweet as the story progressed through his efforts.
Jasper is an interesting character and pretty much Chance’s polar opposite. He’s a bit of a mystery to Chance. Even if somethings are not known until later, the reader understands what Chance cannot. The clues are there to understanding Jasper so it is a matter of hoping Chance will pay attention before it’s too late. Jasper is a stalwart and responsible person if not as sharp or scholarly as Chance. He’s upfront, self-aware, and with a simple outlook on the world. He doesn’t know what to make of all Chance’s machinations and I cringed each time Chance inadvertently hurt him through his trial and error method of trying to attract Jasper. Jasper is salt of the earth and I fell in love with him right alongside Chance. I wish every Chance in the world could find their Jazzy Jasper.
If I had a niggle, it was the end. I wasn’t quite done with Chance and Jasper. This story ends more on a Happy For Now note and I enjoyed the characters so much that I wanted it tied up complete with a bow. I wanted to know at least a strong hint. But then again, it wasn’t a bad place to end things, either and I can use my imagination.
So, this was a delightful coming of age story that stays on the lighter side, but still confronts some serious issues. It is a sweet, slow-developing YA romance that I can easily recommend.
My thanks to Lola’s Blog Tours for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Romance Roundabout #28 YA
Literary Pickers #28 pumpkin
New to Me #15 author
Mt. TBR #16
Blogger Shame #2
That’s when my cell phone, which I placed on my chest before I lay down on my now “love-spell-pink” wrapped mattress, starts singing Express Yourself.
“Yo.” I don’t check the number. It’s Emmy—who else would it be?
“Hi, Chance.” The deep voice is so not Emmy’s.
Yaaassss!!! This is what ninety-nine percent of my insides shout. One percent says quietly, “It’s about frigging time you called, asshole.”
But my voice is calm. “Jasper,” I say blandly. In my opinion, he hasn’t earned the right to be called Jazz any longer.
“Um, sorry, no. It’s Jazz.”
I try not to roll my eyes even though I know he won’t see, but it’s an epic fail. “Whatever.”
“I’m sorry I haven’t been in touch for a couple days. My mom’s been real sick. I was lookin’ after her, gettin’ her to the doctor, goin’ to the pharmacy, bringing JoJo back and forth to school, and stuff.”
“Mom caught JoJo’s strep throat and had to go to the ER because she couldn’t even swallow.” He stops talking for a second and then clears his voice. “Alls she could do was spit into a rag whenever she needed to swallow.”
Well, that’s definitely TMI, but I get the fucker-nelly revolting picture. “I’m sorry.”
“Not your fault, dude.”
And then there’s silence.
“Gonna take JoJo to the library after school tomorrow. But first I gotta stop by the cable company and pay up or we’re gonna lose our TV and internet at home. They already warned us like twice.”
“Want me to pick up Yolo at school and take her to the library?” I’m so freaking pissed off at him. Why am I offering to save his ass again?
“That’s cool of you to offer, but there’s a bus she can take to the library from her school. Could ya be waiting for her at the library, in case I get held up?”
“Of course.” I’m a Class A sucker.
“You’re such a cool pal.” Ugh—so not what I’m going for.
“I’m not gonna be at lunch tomorrow seein’ as I’ll probably be collecting my makeup work. So, I’ll see ya at the library. ‘Kay?”
I don’t say kkkk cuz it’s not even slightly cool. “Sure. The libes after school, it is.”
“Thank you, bro,” Jazz offers.
One more silence, and then I say, “Later.”
I have research to do.