Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Review by Jodi: Screwups by Jamie Fessenden

Title: Screwups
Author: Jamie Fessenden
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Rating: 4.5/5 Smooches 


In 1996, Jake Stewart is starting his third year at the University of New Hampshire. Even as a successful business major, he is absolutely miserable. Not only is Jake pursuing a field he hates when he’d rather study art, he is utterly terrified of what will happen if his father finds out he’s gay. When he finally gets up the courage to move into the creative arts dorm on campus, his new roommate, Danny, is openly gay—and there’s no denying the attraction between them.

Danny Sullivan has been out since high school, and he appears comfortable with his sexuality. But something happened in Danny’s past — something that gives him nightmares he refuses to talk about. Unknown to Jake, the way he mistreated his friend, Tom Langois, when Tom came out to him in high school, is mild compared to the way someone very much like Jake treated Danny.

It may be too late to fix the mess Jake made with Tom, but if Jake wants to be with Danny, he’s going to have to fix the mess made by another closeted jock he’s never even met.


For the record, I am a fan of Jamie Fessenden’s writing style. I was blown away by Billy’s Bones, and as a result, I was looking forward to reading this book. I was not disappointed. Although this book is much more light hearted than its predecessor, it does offer its share of angst and drama.

Fessenden has a great handle on combining solicitude and humor in his prose, which is not an easy task. He also has the wonderful ability to use dialogue to enhance a story without the dialogue sounding stilted or artificial. In addition to being a pro at character development, Fessenden is a master of description.

“His name was Danny, and he was beautiful. The moment Jake had walked into the dorm lounge, he’s been struck by Danny’s delicate features, smooth golden skin, and hazel eyes that seemed smoky and almost gray, smoldering beneath long, unkempt light-brown bangs.”

This is our first look at the enigma that is Danny told from the perspective of the straight-laced, uptight Jake. The electricity between the two characters is palpable when they first meet. Danny, the geeky music major is intrigued with Jake sketches. Beneath the appearance of a jock, business major is an artist, and that is why Danny votes to let Jake live in the artist dorm, and subsequently his room and heart. Danny and Jake become fast friends, but the romantic aspect of their relationship has a slow build, primarily because Jake is in the closet.

Jake is described as being gorgeous and athletic. In addition to pretending to be straight, he is socially and sexually repressed, and has a bit of a temper. Jake’s violent and homophobic family is the catalyst for Jake’s repression. It is not surprising that he is living in self-imposed isolation. The guilt he feels over rejecting his childhood best friend’s admission of love seems to eat away at him.

“Every since he’s fucked up his friendship with Tom, his life had been completely normal and boring and lonely as hell.”

Danny is brilliantly developed. He is a fun-loving young man who is haunted by the past. Not only does he blame himself for being the victim of an assault, but he also blames himself for the bullying he endured subsequent to the attack. Like many victims in real life, Danny’s actions after the attack hinge on his somewhat desperate desire to be loved and accepted. Although he has a great relationship with his mother, he has major trust issues because he does not think he is worthy of happiness.

There are a lot of minor characters that help round out this book and add humor and depth to the main characters. Supplementing the concept of screwups are Danny and Jake’s friends. “They were the geeks among the geeks.” Without them, this story would not be as dynamic, humorous or heart warming.

Fessenden does a great job unfolding this story. Although the story is light-hearted, there are parts that are heart wrenching. If you are looking for a contemporary m/m romance with lots of geekiness, college humor and angst, this book fits the bill.

As a side note, Jake’s childhood friend and first crush, Tom Langois, is the main character in Billy’s Bones. You don’t need to know that to read this book, but it is a powerful connection if you have read Billy’s Bones, which is an outstanding book.


*Note: if you click the Dreamspinner link at the top of the review, it will take you to buy the book directly from the publisher.

1 comment:

  1. Well written review Jodi. You've sold me, this sounds like a winner. Thanks :)


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