Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Hookup Artist

By Tucker Shaw

Lucas is the Matchmaker at his high school, helping everyone else find love, all the while keeping his own heart under wraps after getting it hurt.

When his best friend Cate gets dumped, Lucas is stoked to match her up with this new guy in their school, Derek.

Lucas definitely noticed that Derek is cool, athletic, and HOT. So he'd be perfect for her, right?

Then Lucas starts to think that Derek is maybe interested in HIM, instead of Cate. And Derek might just be perfect for him...

But meanwhile Cate is starting to like Derek, too.

Yikes! What's going to happen when two friends crush on the same guy?

Add your review of "The Hookup Artist" in comments!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Review with some spoilers

Shaw's novel is one of those quick, fun afternoon reads that entertains without sacrificing more serious issues regarding friendship and homophobia. What attracted me the most to this book was the fact that it isn't a problem novel, and in the story, Lucas is already out. To his credit, Tucker Shaw never ignores the consequences of his Lucas' courage and in fact works them into a variety of scenes using verbal bullying and threats as opposed to outright physical violence. Those scenes, though, only make up a small part of the book's main conflict.

What I really like the most about the book is the fact that it deals with everyday teen issues that are universal, not necessarily hetero- or homocentric. Kids of any gender and sexual orientation suffer through the horrors of romantic uncertainties, the desire for emotional attachments, and especially the inevitable friction to which close friendships are subjected over one boy (or girl). I appreciate Shaw's efforts in portraying a gay kid's experiences as commonplace or mainstream though there are, of course, inescapable differences between the perceptions others have of his choices and his actions (because of his homosexuality) versus his reality. That's pretty much stating the obvious.

Lucas and his best girl pals, Sonja and Cate, are well-drawn and likable. Sonja, the flirtatious Latina hottie, appears to be closer to Lucas than Cate is, but Lucas does point out at the beginning how Cate tends to have an air of aloofness about her that intimidates people. It's mostly in Lucas' interactions with Sonja where we see his conflicted alliances get verbalized. The connection between these two are actually indicative of their marginalized situation in school - the gay kid and the "slut." The heated conversation between Sonja and Lucas in the climax of the book grounds that in, and we get to understand the dependence they have on each other. Cate's more representative of the mainstream - pretty, athletic, and smart. Not to mention heterosexual. So she remains somewhat on the outside in their circle of three, and the blowup between her and Lucas in the climax underscores their social differences in spite of their close friendship.

The main difficulty I had involved Derek. I honestly couldn't figure out why he made such a sharp turnaround regarding Cate after several chapters of his obvious attraction to Lucas and complete unresponsiveness to Cate. The change was sudden, and it wasn't adequately explained in the book, which is unfortunate because it would've given us some glimpse of Derek's real character beyond the Hottie of the Year persona that we're stuck with from his first appearance. Did he use Cate in order to earn Lucas' regard? Was he gay or bi? As a pivotal character, he remains fuzzy and unsatisfactory.

A secondary problem I had involved Vince, who's Cate's smarmy ex-boyfriend. He's a jock, a womanizer, a bully, and an idiot. In other words, he's a high school stereotype, who's used in the book to convey some of the dangers that Lucas faces being a gay kid who's out. He calls Lucas names, taunts him, and threatens him, and while I regard him as a pretty realistic depiction of a bully, he still remains one-dimensional. The irredeemable bad guy, on whose shoulders all the nastiness of high school social life seems to have settled.

The book ends on a fairly open note, depending on how the reader interprets the scenes involving Julian and Lucas. I frankly was a little disappointed, given how I understood their cryptic exchange. Overall, though, The Hookup Artist is a pretty fun read. It was nice to lose myself in such a close friendship and the dangers that can threaten Lucas and the girls despite their bond. Perhaps the best thing I got out of this book was Shaw's exploration of Lucas' struggles with his self-perceptions as a boy who's capable of - or who deserves - earning someone's love.