Fan Art by Sarah Tregay ( web | facebook )
Publication Date: June 17, 2014
Publisher: Katherine Tegen
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: coming out, best friends, literary magazine, art class, graduation
Format read: ARC from Publisher via Edelweiss. (Thanks!)
Summary: Jamie is in love with his best friend, Mason. He’s pretty sure Mason is into girls. Mason has no idea that Jamie is gay. Jamie’s fear of coming out rules the last months of his senior year, and well as his role as designer on the literary magazine when the staff can’t seem to agree on one particular piece.
This is another one of those situations where I love an author’s past work (Love + Leftovers is just amazing) and was highly anticipating their next book… only to be disappointed.
Sigh. It makes my stomach hurt just to say that.
I liked a few parts of this novel but, collectively, something did not click when all the pieces were put together. First, Jamie. He’s gay and in love with his male best friend, Mason. Though his parents are open and supportive, Jamie is struggling with coming out to Mason, much less telling him how he feels. He doesn’t want their years of friendship to disappear with his honesty overload.
As readers, we hear all of his insecurities and his fears. I work very hard to be a compassionate reader but, at some point, I really needed him to move forward. It was almost like the worrying when on for so long; it didn’t create a story arc. It was more of a straight line. Add in conflicts within the literary magazine (that started a little bit too late in the story) about an LGBT comic a student has submitted. There’s a group vote about the piece, but when it’s met with such indignation, it starts to eat away at Jamie. He feels every student should be represented in the literary magazine, and rejecting the piece is not the right thing to do.
His taking matters into his own hands does create a level of anxiety in the book. What will the consequences be? But, at the same time, the driving force of the book should have been something more.
The bright spot of the book was Jamie’s new friends with fellow art geek, Eden. She’s overcome with pressures of her own, but for once, he has someone to talk to about coming out and being himself… in front of everyone. Their friendship grew to be so special, and I loved how they supported each other and were also a little tentative with one another — just like new friends growing to trust each other would be. Another sweet detail was Jamie’s relationship with his baby sisters. They loved him so much, and he truly came from a loving family who tried to connect with each other despite busy schedules.
On their own the poetry included was beautiful and gave us a glimpse into the different personalities at this school but it also made the book feel a little uneven. Introducing other mediums into novels is something I personally love. It gives a book a collage feel, but the story also has to benefit from these breaks in the story and it didn’t in Fan Art. I almost wish the book had been more rooted in the lit magazine environment, and less in art class and in Jamie’s head. It was hard for me to get a grasp on all the different characters, and more of a focus might have helped with that.
Despite unbalanced storytelling, I was rooting for Jamie and Mason. I couldn’t help but think of one of my favorite authors, J.H. Trumble, who has written some great romances that reminded me a bit of these two. (Check out Don’t Let Me Go.) In the end, Fan Art was too much of one thing and not enough of another.