I’m just going to go ahead and say right out of the gate that finding How to Repair a Mechanical Heart was at least, at least, eleventeen kinds of awesome for me.
This is a story that deals with one boy’s coming out and with his struggle to reconcile who he is with whom his religion has instructed him to be. It’s a story of contrast. It’s the story of a guy who decides it’s better to simulate a heartbreak with a perfectly fictional perfect ex-boyfriend than to risk his real heart on real romance, especially when it comes to the one guy he wants more than any other. It’s the story of three friends who go on a six-week-long road trip and along the way discover that sometimes life truly does imitate art, and that sometimes truth is very much stranger than fiction, and that oftentimes if you don’t like the way a story’s going, you have to be brave enough to go ahead and rewrite it and give yourself the ending that can best mend a fractured heart. It is a story of two friends who play their roles in a popular lexicon but quickly discover the pretense might exact a far higher price than they’re able to pay, especially when it stops being a game. It is a story of what it means to begin something in the public eye that suddenly becomes very personal and private, and how difficult it can be to live up to the image that’s been spun for you when things begin to unravel.
But the part that really makes this story rock out loud in so many different ways is the “Castaway Planet”-worshipping fandom it’s set against, where fanfiction meets purists, where lines are drawn, wagers are made, illusions are tarnished, and Brandon Page and Abel McNaughton discover something a bit creepy/flattering about a group that follows their vlog, Screw Your Sensors. But in the end, for Brandon and Abel, it all boils down to the blurry line of conflict between what is the fact and what is the fiction of the virtual reality romance they allowed themselves to be lured into.
And there you have it. Just when I’ve become complacent in the belief there can’t possibly be any more original ways to tell me a coming-of-age story, J.C. Lillis happens along and not only tells it but sells it in a colorfully wrapped package of humor and pop-cultural icon worship and maybe even just a smidgen of satire, then plops a big red bow of characters I unashamedly fell in love with smack-dab on top of this ginormous gift.
Brandon, Abel, their fabulous friend Bec, and perhaps the most prominent character of all, Brandon’s hyperactive and very vocal conscience, shared a story with me that made me laugh, brought a lump to my throat, and tweaked the part of me that made me want to hug Brandon close and tell him that love is never wrong.
I can’t even recommend this book highly enough.
Be sure to stayed tuned, folks, because tomorrow, I’ll have J.C. Lillis here to tell us a bit about herself and how she came up with the idea for How to Repair a Mechanical Heart.