Title: How to Repair A Mechanical Heart (2015)
Author: J. C. Lillis
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBT
Extent: 296 pages
Review: Brandon and Abel are co-vloggers who run the Internet’s third most popular channel dedicated to the television series Castaway Planet. This summer, they’re hitting the road in Brandon’s dad’s RV to follow the series’s traveling convention. Everything seems to be going well, at least until mysterious messages about them start popping up in the fan community… Brandon has already been struggling with coming to terms with being gay and being a Catholic, and he certainly doesn’t need more on his plate!
A confession: I used to be a ‘shipper’ in my earlier days, back when Livejournal was still the main blogging platform. I wrote fanfiction, made icons, listened to fanmixes, read tons of ship manifestos… and while I don’t have much time to do that anymore, I really enjoyed those days. How to Repair a Mechanical Heart reminded me of what it felt like to dive head-first into fandoms—to get brilliantly, carelessly and absolutely obsessed—in a really, really, REALLY good way.
I adore Brandon with all my heart. His struggles were so painfully real and relevant to our generation, centred around a theme that is so current these past few years: according to the Bible, love is between a man and a woman, so being a man and loving a man must be a sin. How to Repair a Mechanical Heart is more about how Brandon comes to terms with being gay and being Catholic than anything else, I think.
“You can stop waiting, you know,” she says.
”For God to strike you down.”
The romance was cute and filled me with the warm and fuzzies. Their relationship was tumultuous for sure, given Brandon’s Catholic background and Abel’s trauma with dating Catholic boys—both of which were reasonable, understandable issues and felt natural and believable. Additionally, these boys are so damn cute and adorable, they have their own ship name on the internet: THE CHURCH OF ABANDON. I thought this was genius!
What I appreciate is that J. C. Lillis didn’t point fingers; she didn’t paint anyone as a super villain. The world isn’t black and white, so clashes of opinions and beliefs are inevitable, but it’s no one’s fault, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I cheered for Brandon every step of the way as he fights his inner demons, and I was proud of him when he recognises that there is a middle ground, and sometimes, the right thing to do is absolutely to take the high road and be civil.
“I mean, if no one knows for sure what God’s like, then why don’t you just believe the people who think he’s all rainbows and sunshine and loves you no matter what?”
That being said, this book isn’t without its light-hearted, happy moments. I actually cracked up a few times thanks to the fangirly fandom-speak, and I think anyone who has ever been in any kind of fandom would agree that Lillis perfectly captured the voice of fangirls. It was just so worth it. For illustrative purposes, here’s an example:
doomerang: omg you guys. I CAN’T EVEN.
amity crashful: rosey you are a heroic stalker, please have my babies
retro robot: They are flawless. That is all.
sadparadise: MY BRAIN JUST LEGIT EXPLODED
whispering!sage: snickerdoodles. the official cookie of us.
thanks4caring: lol @ brandon’s “cupping hands.” like, “abel baby, back yo ass up into these”
sad paradise: can you blame him? DAT ASS.
How to Repair a Mechanical Heart has everything I want (and need!) in a solid Young Adult book: a relatable protagonist who develops and learns things over time, a cute yet flawed love interest, great supporting characters, real but solvable conflicts, and seriously adorable humour. I highly recommend it.