I can’t think of a school library in Texas that can get away with putting a book with gay porn scenes in its collection but if that’s your school then by all means keep reading this review. SHIP IT tells the story of high-school junior Claire, who moved with her poet father and artist mother (who primarily paints nude portraits of herself) to the small town of Pine Bluff, Idaho. As Claire herself describes it, she did not successfully manage the short but critical initial transition to a brand-new middle school those five years ago, and, as a result, she has no friends unless she counts Joanie, the girl who sometimes sits next to her on the school bus.
A smart girl and an excellent student who plans to escape Pine Bluff and head off to a top-notch university as soon as she graduates, Claire spends her free time writing (as heart-of-lightness) fan fiction based on a show called Demon Heart. She has a respectably-sized following though no one knows her true identity. As the show nears the end of its first season, Claire is obsessed with the idea that its two main characters, Smokey and Heart (who have been arch-enemies but have become allies) are actually in love with each other. She and her followers want to see this gay relationship revealed on the show by season’s end.
This is what drives the story to its somewhat convoluted and facile conclusion wherein Claire becomes a powerful fanfic blogger with professional creds and opportunities, Demon Heart’s actors wholeheartedly comply with fans’ wishes, Claire resolves her ambiguity about her own sexual orientation and declares she is queer in front of her surprised parents and a large audience at San Diego ComicCon, and so on. All is neatly tied up and everyone is happy (series writer and producers excepted).
The book addresses some interesting questions about fan fiction and who really “owns” the characters and framework upon which the fanfic rests. It also provides sobering commentary on the power and permanence of social media posts. For the first half of the book the author does a balanced job describing the moral conflicts, economic and artistic risks and general confusion of most of the main characters over LGBTQIA issues but in the end dismisses those who are still struggling with the challenges. (Wouldn’t it be great if everyone could refashion their thoughts and codes of conduct as quickly as Claire and Forest do and be cheered by thousands for doing so?)
SHIP IT would make a great discussion book for high-schoolers were it not for the pervasive offensive language and porn.
Categories: Controversial YA Topics, Diversity, Fantasy, LGBTQIA, Navigating through High School, Offensive Language in YA Literature, Peer Relationships, Social Media, Supernatural/Occult, Violence, Wizarding and Magic