Review: How to Repair a Mechanical Heart by J.C. Lillis



Wow. This was so incredibly cute and heartwarming, and it’s definitely a new favorite of mine.

I keep asking for signs. And here she is. Someone who prays to a neon Virgin Mary and lives her whole life in all-caps and thinks God and my happiness go together just fine.

Brandon lives in a very religious family, to which he came out as gay not long ago. They didn’t take it well, bringing their priest into it and all, but allow him to go on a six-weeks road trip with his friend Bec, in the hopes that he…becomes straight and falls in love with her, I guess. This road trip will connect all the locations of the conventions of Castaway Planet, a show Brandon is huge fan of.

Little does his family know that Abel, co-host of the most famous Castaway Planet vlog channel together with Brandon and very openly gay, will go on the road trip with them.
They have one purpose besides meeting the Castaway Planet actors at the conventions: prove the Cadsim (Cadmus+Sim, protagonists of the show) crazy fangirl shippers wrong by asking the actors and creators of the show whether something happened or not between Cadmus and Sim in the season finale, because it obviously can’t have happened, despite what every piece of Cadsim fanfiction says. I mean, Sim is a freaking android, so there’s no way. No way.
Fangirls go a bit beyond Cadsim shipping though, and Brandon and Abel will have to deal with them in a different way.

There are so many themes within these 250 pages.

First off, the fandom and fanfic themes are huge and interwoven in the narrative, a bit similarly (but even more so) to Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. If you are or have ever been an active member of any fandom, this element alone will appeal to you.

“When I give the world my characters, it’s because I don’t want to keep them for myself. You don’t like what I made them do? Fucking tell me I’m wrong! Rewrite the story. Throw in a new plot twist. Make up your own ending.”

Second, is obviously the romance. There’s not much I can say without spoiling it, but know it’s just adorable.

I want to make a sweater out of this week and wrap myself up in it until it falls apart.

Last but not least is the religion. I wouldn’t say that Brandon is struggling with internalized homophobia because he never thinks his feelings are wrong, but throughout the story he remembers what Father Mike told him or he imagines what he would say. Horrible things that I don’t even want to repeat here, coated with a facade of understanding and “God loves you”.

…I glance past the rides and snack stands to where the blond stone wall of the church is, but I can’t let my eyes linger there either. It’s like looking at a house you don’t live in anymore. You wish you could go in again, but strangers live there now and you aren’t welcome, and it wouldn’t be the same anyway.

The religious element isn’t too heavy and, as an atheist, its presence didn’t bother me. What bothered me were Brandon’s family’s hateful words – don’t get me wrong, they’re not the worst family I’ve ever read about, but for some reason this made me legit angry-cry even more while reading their words.

Despite the last few things I wrote about, this is a very fun and overall lighthearted novel. I really have no idea why I haven’t heard about it before my friend read it and recommended it to me, because it seems like it should be on everyone’s bookshelves.

4 thoughts on “Review: How to Repair a Mechanical Heart by J.C. Lillis

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