This is a cute love story with many twists and turns, the romance is forever complicated by the fact that it’s between two male characters. This means that throughout the story the two best friends are constantly on the edge of being something more but are held back by fear and the dangers of coming out. I personally really enjoyed this story.
I give this book 4.5 stars (out of five). I loved this book and the message that falling in love is easy, except when it’s not. Right away this book piqued my interest because of the intriguing title, fanart is something we see all the time on the internet for many different fandoms and pieces of media. So seeing it as the title of a novel really got my attention, I was curious to say the least and I needed to figure out what it was about. Turns out it was a cute love story using art to help tell the story in an unique way. Before I get into a summary of the amazing plot I want to give a disclaimer that this book is not for anyone who is homophobic as this does focus on a non-heterosexual relationship, for anyone who has acceptable views please keep reading.
Here’s some background information; the main character is a high school senior named Jamie Peterson, who suddenly finds he might be in love with his childhood best friend Mason. Jamie is gay, and he’s already come out to his parents (who sort of overreacted by throwing him a party) but he’s not out at school, although people will always speculate about others. Jamie is in art class and involved in something like the school newspaper called Gumshoe to showcase art and writer, Jamie is an editor in charge of art. .
The first inkling of a romance starts when Jamie accidentally checks Mason out and then promptly panics (Thou shalt not check out thy best friend.)
A background character (a girl named Challis) is mad at Jamie for rejecting her art, he fumbles for an excuse and says it’s because it was fan art of an unoriginal character. While explaining how it would be better with original characters he asks about a comic short story, he thinks that would be very cool and promises to get it in if she makes it.
An inside joke that will become relevant and important way later in this series is that a senior a few years ago died in a car accident and because of that lots of the guys at their school started openingly saying, “I love you, man”. Because it was sort of an inside joke but also taking back the ability to openingly display affection and love for your friends despite the modern stigma. All the guys at the school use this with their friends often throughout the book.
Prom is coming up and despite being gay Jamie is trying to ask a girl to go as friends (mainly s he doesn’t stand out too much or be the only one without a date). Everyone else including Mason already have dates, so Jamie ends up asking the nice girl named Eden he sits next to in art and she says yes. The problem is her parents are very, very strict and she has a troublemaker older brother, so they have to go on a few fake dates. This causes a scene where she surprise kisses him to make sure her parents think they’re real, this is also when Jamie accidentally admits to not liking to kiss girls.
Later on Eden’s older brother randomly talks to Jamie, he submits a poem for extra credit to the Gumshoe but is adamant that no one else can see or read it. Jamie doesn’t question that and is just thankful that he isn’t completely targeting him for going to Prom with his sister. The same day in art class girls are gossiping about Jamie and Mason and saying they should go to Prom together and that is stressful and terrifying for Jamie because he’s not even out at school.
At the end of class Challis delivers her finished short graphic noble style story and it’s great. But it’s called The Love Dare and about two male characters falling in love, even when people purposely try to embarrass them. And the problem with that is Jamie loves it but he knows it won’t be easy to get it published. It has to get past the other Gumshoe editors and past teachers and it takes up more space then all the other short stories despite being mainly art. But Jamie promised to get it in and he wants it to be in there, he wants it to be an important central part of Gumshoe so he has to be the one to convince everyone.
Jamie tries his best he really does, but nearly everyone in Gumshoe is against it. They think there’s no plot and they don’t really see the importance of telling non-heterosexual or different stories. Besides they don’t live in the most accepting area and if they get complaints they could lose funding, so in the end the majority votes against it being included.
Over the weekend Jamie is working on Gumshoe putting everything together, but somewhere in that process he decides: ‘Screw it’, and makes two versions one with The Love Dare and one without. His decision is partly motivated by a poem submitted anonymously called At Night I Dream about finding equality, love and utopia.
While hanging out again with Challis and Eden Jamie hears Eden’s coming out story, which probably sacred him more. When Eden came out to her best friend at the time Lia but in the end that was what stopped their friendship, Lia didn’t really want to be her best friend anymore and Jamie was worried the same thing could happen if he came out to Mason.
Jamie tries again to get The Love Dare in Gumshoe but no one else agrees with him and it falls flat. He just can’t get it in. Eventually it gets to be Prom night and after all the appropriate preparations and pictures, they’re at Prom. While at Prom lots of things happen, but in my opinion the most important thing was a meaningful conversation between Jamie and Eden about being different. They’re both different, gay and lesbian, so they can relate to each other, they know what it’s like. Jamie finally agrees to come out to Mason after they talk about coming out, they wish they didn’t need to, that everyone would understand that love is love regardless of gender. Eden even admits to sometimes just wanting to be straight, because it would be so much easier and almost like the way things should be (she has homophobic parents by the way), but Jamie doesn’t see it that way. Looking out at the sea of boys and girls dancing together (with no same sex couples) all Jamie wants is to be himself and for that to be okay. After having a heartfelt conversation they get up to dance for the rest of Prom with the rest of the couples.
But the after party is a different story, Eden has to go home early because of her strict parents so Jamie ends up without a date again but it doesn’t really matter now. Jamie accidentally stumbles upon Mason and his date making out and he wants to leave (and he’s the driver).
On Monday the first sample versions of Gumshoe arrive and they have The Love Dare in them, Jamie accidentally sent in the wrong files. It wasn’t really an accident, he decided he wouldn’t let people censor Gumshoe, he decided to do what he thought was right and include a possibly offensive story to make a difference. Jamie is the first one to see the examples and he secretly tears out the pages featuring the comic, so the others won’t notice but it will be in the finale version; Jamie will make sure of it even though he’s sure he will lose all his friends and get into huge trouble after publishing it.
Around this time is when Mason continues asking Jamie to go on a short road trip with him to a family cabin in McCall. And so they end up going, just the two of them. They have a lot of fun together, they rent jet skis, eat together, talk and the romance really starts here. But it isn’t all fun and games, on their way back they have car troubles and end up getting into a really intense fight and having to walk back into town and sleep in the cabin. This is the only moment between them I’m going to fully explain but at one point during the night Jamie wakes up enough to slightly touch and eventually kind of hold Mason’s hand before he wakes up more and starts to move his hand away. But as he does Mason says, “Don’t,” but Jamie doesn’t know if he means don’t hold my hand or don’t let out.
The next morning they’re in trouble, Mason’s parents are mad and have come to get them, so they have to rush back to the car. And they’re both in trouble, but it’s not too bad. Back at school there’s even more trouble, I didn’t explain it earlier but Jamie was involved with a Senior Prank before the road trip. And so was Eden’s older brother Nick, someone ratted him out for being there and he thinks it was Jamie but it wasn’t. And Nick is so attainment on it being Jamie that he threatens him with telling everyone he messed with the Gumshoe (which he somehow knows about). They come to something of a truce but he’s an asshole so it doesn’t really matter.
When the printed copies of Gumshoe come they’re Jamie’s version with The Love Dare neatly inside, and he knows by the time everyone finds out he’s screwed but he also knows that it was worth it. Jamie also “accidentally” made a mistake on the price and made it an extra dollar, so that if they do sell copies they make up for the potentially lost money from some people not buying as many because of the copy.
And he’s right, when the other people working on Gumshoe see what he’s done they’re mad and confused but not everyone is completely against it. They might even agree to sell them as they are if they can get it past the principle. And when everything seems to be going wrong, Jamie goes to the GSA for the first time ever. He hands out copies of Gumshoe with the comic in it and explains that they rejected it and he snuck it in, he encourages everyone to buy copies to support the diversity people are trying to censor out.
Later that day while Jamie’s in class he gets called to the principal’s office and he knows that it’s basically over, he could be busted for participating in the senior prank, messing with Gumshoe and also everyone’s going to realize he’s gay. On his way out of the classroom Jamie says something very important to Mason, “I love you, man.” and then he leaves.
In the principal’s office Jamie’s mom and the teacher supervising the Gumshoe are there and Jmaie has to justify and confirm his actions. Jamie admits to everything, even raising the price and already selling some copies to prove people would buy them. He faces possible expulsion, which is definitely not good that close to graduating. On Monday Jamie sells Mason a copy of Gumshoe.
In the end Jamie’s punishment is to write a ten-page paper about censorship of books in schools and libraries, but he can still graduate with that. And they’ve decided to sell and enter Gumshoe in competitions the way it is. It’s exam week so Jamie and Mason don’t see each other much, for multiple reasons. In art one day Jamie happens upon fan art from Eden, of him and Mason kissing. Over the weekend Jamie and Eden hang out, they talk about the drawing and get over it and eventually they even go see a movie with Mason too.
After one quick more week of exams passes, it’s finally graduation (and yes Jamie can graduate)! Mason is making the salutation when everything goes wrong. Jamie ends up getting stuck sitting next to Nick, it gets even worse when he hands him a copy of the program for the ceremony and whispers, “ I love you, man.” There printed in and stapled into every version of the program was Eden’s drawing of Mason and Jamie kissing, now with the caption “I love you, man.” The drawing was everywhere and there was nothing Jamie could do, they were being outed when they weren’t even together, humiliated and Jamie was sure he would never be able to talk to Mason ever again. The worst part of the entire thing was that Nick did it to get even with Jamie for ratting him out to the principal, something he didn’t even do and Nick only assumed he did, and he copied Jamie’s actions with Gumshoe except for entirely hateful and unjustified reasons. This sends Jamie into a spiral for the rest of the ceremony, the only thing he can think about is how this is the end of their friendship.
Jamie walks the stage, they take pictures, throw their caps and then it’s over. After the ceremony Mason finds Jamie in the crowd and when they meet up Mason hugs him and communicates to Jamie through closeness and a few words that he wants to kiss him. And once Jamie responds with a quick, “Hell yeah.” They kiss and everyone cheers, so they don’t stop. But then they do and they’re greeting their families, Jamie’s is happy and proud while Mason’s is mostly okay aside from his father (who does not look happy). Even with that complication the ending is perfect, Mason and Jamie are finally together and everything is finally okay. Mason’s dad basically kicked him out but he’s been planning his escape for a while, and he knows exactly where he’s going and what school he’s starting in the fall. With Mason and Jamie together everything will be alright.
Can we please take a second to appreciate that the first line in this entire book is “Nah.” also these few other iconic lines from throughout the book that I quite liked; “The truth isn’t something you type up and turn in,” and “I think we’ve all learned that life is short.” Not short enough. Thank you, those parts needed some extra recognition.
I’m really glad that Jamie tries to come out and confess to Mason so many times but always chickens out, not because I want him to struggle but because it’s realistic. It shows the panic, hesitation and fear surrounding coming out, especially to those you’re close with. I’m really glad this book didn’t just have Jamie coming out and being open as something very easy, because it’s not and the struggles he faces are real things that real people experience.
One scene in particular I wanted to talk about is when Jamie buys a small button with the rainbow flag on it. He imagines pinning it to his bag next year in college and never having to come out, just being himself freely and openingly. And this moment is so special and important. Coming out has been something Jamie was terrified of doing for ages, and when he does this it’s almost just a way to tell everyone, to show it off, to finally be able to be gay and proud. I think lots of LGBTQ+ people have similar moments, when they buy a pride flag for the first time or when they can proudly and confidently come out to someone without any fear-that is so important and I might be reading into this short scene more than I should but I’m very glad it was included.
Another thing I wanted to mention that I didn’t really include in the summary was another amazing romance between two of the lesbian background characters. It was nearly as well written as the main romance and I really, really liked it. They seemed perfect for each other and the way they got together was also very realistic (no fairy tales or things happening out of nowhere). It was very good to see multiple non-heteronormative relationships, in fact the only heterosexual couples were in the background which I think we should see more and more in modern media.
Overall this book is a great experience to read. Although there were parts that made me both physically mad and extremely emotional it is totally worth the emotions it carries. It’s very powerful and there’s many, many meaningful scenes. I think the best of it all is that it reminds us that standing up and fighting for what you believe in isn’t wrong and even if others around you aren’t accepting you can still accept and love yourself. This book made me very happy and I love the ending despite the things leading up to it. I really recommend this book to anyone looking for a nice romance novel, especially anyone looking for diversity or a story with an important and meaningful message.