In Domingo’s world, when individuals reach their eighteenth birthday the physical aging process stops, at least until they fall in love. This love does not have to be reciprocated, but must be the “soul-crushing, heart-stopping” kind and then people receive their heart halo. At this point, normal physical aging begins again and their heart halo remains above their head until death.
Technically, Domingo is 40. He wants to experience the same kind of fairytale love that his parents had, but he is still single and without his halo. This is until he begins to date Kiana, who not only shares Domingo’s love for coffee, but is beautiful and intelligent. As much as Domingo wants to fall madly in love with Kiana, he is preoccupied and entranced by his new friend, Jojo. Domingo tries everything to convince himself that he is not gay, but cannot dismiss the feelings he has for Jojo and the overwhelming sense of calm he feels when Jojo is around. When Domingo finally earns his heart halo, he has to learn to accept himself before he can admit who his true love is.
I wanted to read Weird People because I was intrigued by the premise, but for me, Jarrard Martin fell short of delivering a satisfying story.
I never felt connected to Domingo as a first-person narrator and this affected my enjoyment of the book. This could have more to do with my own cynicism about the existence of true love than Martin’s portrayal of Domingo’s character. I did, however, like the journey that Martin takes his protagonist on. This includes Domingo’s adamant insistence that he is heterosexual, his halfhearted attempt at a relationship with Kiana, admitting his true feelings for Jojo, and then his enthusiastic endeavors at integrating himself with the LGBT+ community. In a post on Goodreads Martin comments that he “wanted a book that can inspire and encourage the LGBTQ community” and hopes to “inspire and empower people” through his writing. I think on some level he achieves this with Weird People, particularly in the changes that take place in Domingo’s life, the love he allows in and the way that he develops, emotionally and spiritually.
Sadly, this also brings me to my biggest point of contention with Weird People. As the title of Martin’s book suggests, he frequently uses the term “weird” synonymously with individuals who belong to the LGBT+ community,
“You’re weird and weird people like us have so many different ways of trying to express ourselves.”
Perhaps, as someone who is heterosexual, I have no right to be upset by the use of this word, but I am the same when people refer to my Autistic son as “abnormal.” If Martin’s overall aim of this book is acceptance of LGBT+ individuals, I felt “weird” was a perplexing and derogatory word to use.
Friendship is a really important theme within this novel and a variety of secondary characters appear during Weird People. In my opinion, it is unfortunate that in Martin’s attempt to encompass every group from the LGBT+ community, none of his characters feel solid or fully rounded enough for the reader to empathize or connect with them.
Anyone thinking of beginning Weird People should know that the novel is littered with errors: missing punctuation; changes of tense within sentences; and personal stories which run on, without any indication of a change of narrator. I found this frustrating and it meant Weird People was a difficult read, although I do see that Martin has acknowledged these errors within a post and an edited version of the story may exist by now.
For me, Weird People is not a book that achieves the author’s very specific aims and overall I was disappointed.