Jamie is a seventeen-year-old high school student who lives with his mom and abusive stepdad. Despite being a member of the track team and spending his free time rocking out to Guitar Hero, Jamie cannot ignore the term “faggot” that is spat with hatred from his stepfather’s mouth. Technically, it is true, although Jamie is yet to admit he is gay to anyone but his best friend, Billy. Billy is the opposite of Jamie. Not only is he from a wealthy family, but he is also rebellious, self-centered, sexually active, and openly gay.
When Jamie is paired with his secret crush and fellow track team member, Dylan, as part of peer-tutoring, Jamie realizes the pair have more in common than just their love for Guitar Hero. Dylan asks questions about Jamie’s sexuality and his own and a connection forms between them. However, it is not until Billy puts himself in a dangerous and life-threatening situation that Jamie and Dylan’s relationship moves past just hanging out with each other. Whilst Dylan wants to be open about the fact that Jamie is his boyfriend, Jamie is more concerned about the repercussions, at school and at home.
Changing Jamie is a story of friendship, family, and first love, told entirely from Jamie’s point of view. The first person narrative is direct, even from the outset of the novel, and with it Dakota Chase invites the reader into Jamie’s life
I had the weirdest feeling that morning. Something just wasn’t right. Not wrong exactly. Not like when you realize you’ve forgotten your wallet and do that funky self-frisk thing, smacking your butt and your hips with your hands like you’re hoping it’s hiding in there somewhere. You know the feeling.
Because of this, I felt like a friend of Jamie’s, sharing thoughts and feelings that no one else was aware of and I was entitled to empathize with his lows and celebrate his highs.
Although Changing Jamie is a sweet romance, with no sex between Dylan and Jamie, the book does deal with serious issues regarding Billy. For a young adult audience, the events relating to Billy and the HIV virus may have shock value and I myself, perhaps naively, learned the meaning of the terms “bug-catcher” and “gift-giver.” In my opinion, Chase handles this storyline excellently, not only revealing Billy’s recklessness and Jamie’s fear, but also hard facts through Jamie’s research and the aftermath of Billy’s actions. Chase shows herself to be a responsible author in dealing with such subject matter and approaching it objectively.
I enjoyed Chasing Jamie and the fluidity of Chase’s writing, but the story is not perfect. In parts, Chase chooses to use very formulaic tropes. For example, a relationship between a popular jock and a group outsider is frequently seen in both gay and heterosexual young adult romances. There is also the fact that Dylan has experimented with girls, but by his own admission “I just never found a girl I wanted to keep seeing … You did it for me Jamie. Man, I couldn’t stop thinking about you.”
Admittedly, I do think that Chase does try to counter some of these genre-typical devices by making Jamie a member of the track team and little bullying exists within the school environment when Dylan and Jamie are outed, in fact quite the opposite. However, I do feel it is something that readers like me who regularly read young adult romances should be aware of.
Overall, Changing Jamie is a captivating story with a satisfying HFN ending and a strong protagonist who I enjoyed watching evolve.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.