My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
First Published: May 1st, 2018
Recommended Age: 13+
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBT, Romance, Fandom, Fanfiction, Shipping
Claire is a sixteen-year-old fangirl obsessed with the show Demon Heart. Forest is an actor on Demon Heart who dreams of bigger roles. When the two meet at a local Comic-Con panel, it’s a dream come true for Claire. Until the Q&A, that is, when Forest laughs off Claire’s assertion that his character is gay. Claire is devastated. After all, every last word of her super-popular fanfic revolves around the romance between Forest’s character and his male frenemy. She can’t believe her hero turned out to be a closed-minded jerk. Forest is mostly confused that anyone would think his character is gay. Because he’s not. Definitely not. Unfortunately for Demon Heart, when the video of the disastrous Q&A goes viral, the producers have a PR nightmare on their hands. In order to help bolster their image within the LGBTQ+ community-as well as with their fans-they hire Claire to join the cast for the rest of their publicity tour. What ensues is a series of colourful Comic-Con clashes between the fans and the show that lead Forest to question his assumptions about sexuality and help Claire come out of her shell. But how far will Claire go to make her ship canon? To what lengths will Forest go to stop her and protect his career? And will Claire ever get the guts to make a move on Tess, the very cute, extremely cool fanartist she keeps running into?
The cover may imply otherwise, but this is actually a very intense, sometimes even dark, story. Not dark as in terrifying, but as in ‘‘the fandom world has gone bloody mad’’.
Fans gone wild.
The story centers around two key characters: Claire, a fanfiction writer who ships Smokey and Heart—the two heroes of her favourite TV show—together as a gay couple, and Forest, the actor who plays Smokey.
When Forest tells Claire that she is crazy for thinking that his character is gay and in love with Heart, her dreams are crushed. Not only that, but she also decides to make it her life goal to prove to everyone that Smokey and Heart belong together forever.
Based on my experience reading novels about fandom, I fully expected this book to be super cute, feel-good and include lots of cheesy quotes about the fact that geeks rule and fandom is life. However, the author surprised me by exploring a controversial fandom-related subject.
Like Claire, I was hoping that Smokey and Heart would become romantically-involved, because how amazing would that be? (Side note: I do so wish the author will write their story in her next novel, like Rainbow Rowell did, and please make them gay thank you oh so much.)
But then again, is it her decision to make? How far can fans go to push their opinions to become reality before they’re crossing a line? Is it fair to the producers and writers, who have their own ideas in mind, to pressure them to make their characters queer?
It’s not entirely realistic. While I do believe in an audience influencing aspects of a work, and while some scenes in this novel do mirror reality, some of the characters’ behaviours make me reluctant to agree that this is how people would have reacted in real life.
For instance, the fact that Claire’s parents are automatically accepting of her sexual orientation, even though she has never before opened up about it in the past, is very sweet and certainly admirable, but most kids are not so extremely lucky.
On top of that, actors care a lot about their public image and just the way they are perceived in general, because they know that everything they do will affect their careers and reputation. So it’s unrealistic that Forest would be so explicitly offensive to a fan, even if he is relatively new in the business, seeing that as an actor you have to do multiple appearances and interviews even before your TV show premieres. How has he never heard of fanfiction? Shipping? It makes him naïve…
But even if it’s not one hundred percent realistic, it’s structured, surprising and discusses topics other fandom books don’t.
Follow me on: