Holy Nerd-Con Love, Batman! How to Repair a Mechanical Heart

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

Self-published, 2012

How To Repair A Mechanical Heart by J.C. Lillis

by REBECCA, June 3, 2013

Friends, it is my pleasure to announce that the author of How to Repair a Mechanical Heart, the lovely J.C. Lillis, will join us on Wednesday for an interview and a GIVEAWAY! Make sure you check back then!

Brandon and Abel are huge fans of Castaway Planet, a science fiction show, and their nemeses are the CadSim shippers—fans who believe that Cadmus and Sim, the “dashing space captain Cadmus and dapper android Sim” who are the show’s two main characters, will end up together by the end of Castaway Planet, and who write fan fiction about it. After all, Cadmus and Sim are Brandon and Abel’s biggest crushes ever. So, they set out on a six-week odyssey with their friend, Becca, to attend Castaway Planet conventions and prove once and for all that the space captain and the android are not in love . . . but they get more than they bargained for when they find themselves in the sights of the fanfic community. Could they ever make an RL romance work, or is their relationship  destined to self-destruct?

People: I think How to Repair a Mechanical Heart is the most adorable book I’ve ever read, and I don’t mean that in an infantilizing way, but in an I-want-to-have-sleepovers-with-it-every-Friday kind of way. This is YA nerdqueer at its most charming. (Also, it’s so delightful to find such an amazing gem that is also self-published!) Abel is confident and flirtatious (“This RV is like, nine months pregnant with awesome“) and Brandon is still working through residual (and paralyzing) Catholic guilt about being gay. Yet, their shared Castaway Planet obsession and vlog brought these two opposites together. This results in some absolutely hilarious nerd-talk, as well as some super poignant heartache. How to Repair a Mechanical Heart is told from Brandon’s perspective, so his battles with his religion and his sexuality are particularly poignant:

“Abel Charges after me. Grabs my arm by the bakery case. He does it like it’s nothing, like he doesn’t even realize his hand is there, and meanwhile my arm is zapping hot panicked messages to my brain: he’s touching me I’m being touched don’t move don’t breathe act normal be Sim.”


“‘Brandon, it’s time you knew. Your mother has a crush on an android.’

They all crack up, Mom and Dad and Father Mike the loudest of all. Coffee sours in my stomach. If a nice little anxiety disorder wasn’t programmed into my motherboard, I’d say So do I and watch them implode.”

Anyone with love for geek or fan culture will read How to Repair with a warmed heart and giggle, because in addition to being about coming out, coming of age, and finding love, How to Repair a Mechanical Heart is an absolute love letter to geek culture. And, where some books about geek culture are mocking it out of the sides of their mouths, How to Repair unabashedly wallows in its own geekiness.

“She throws back her head and releases an unholy screech, loud enough to chill the collective blood of the Social Media conference two ballrooms over.

Everyone freezes. The guy chatting up Bec breathes holy shit.

Abel leans close. ‘Omigod,’ he hisses.

‘I know.’

‘We were there, Bran. We were there when Bree LaRue melted down in Cleveland. Historic.'”

How To Repair A Mechanical Heart by J.C. LillisGeek culture here includes real person shipping; that is, as I mentioned, there are some folks who decide to write fiction about Abel and Brandon themselves. This element of the book is particularly interesting to me—the notion of fans caring so much that they will intercede in order to bring about a different course of action, and the line between character and persona being blurred. (Supernatural, seasons 4 and 5, amiright?) J.C. Lillis clearly knows how the fan community works and she brings it all to bear in the amazing fictional chatrooms of the ABANDON (that’s Abel + Brandon, y’all) shippers:

“sorcha doo: if they get together global warming will stop and wars will end and kevin will love me again.

amity crashful: hey_mamacita are you here?? we neeeeeeeed you.


amity crashful: your last fic made me cry like a bb

hey mamacita: LISTEN: it’s not fic anymore. okay? It is PROPHECY. i mean SHIT ON A SHINGLE, SON it is SO CLOSE to happening and I don’t give a porcupine’s bumhole what maxie & her minions at Cadsim think. . . . THINGS. HAVE. EVOLVED.

amity crashful: omg I worship you. Never stop saying words.”

and, later,

retro robot: OMG mamacita that is eerie. I love you so much.

sorcha doo: mamacita u give me life.


When even the chat room personas have unique and intriguing voices, you know it’s gotta be good. And it is! There are wonderful characters here, as well as a truly fun road-trip-structured plot. There is humor, there are tears, there are snacks. There is fighting, there is making up, there are costume balls. And, after you’ve read the book, check out these character extras on J.C. Lillis’ website . . .

Indeed, I don’t want to say much more because J.C. Lillis has such wonderful things to say about the book and its many fascinations. So, check back here on Wednesday for our interview with her and for your chance to win a copy of How to Repair a Mechanical Heart!



  1. Margalit

     /  June 13, 2013

    Great review of what sounds like a uniquely fabulous book! On my reading list!

  2. This cover is so adorable! And I loved the premise. I don’t have time (or make time) to read indie books without a strong recommendation, but I’m definitely going to be checking this out!

    • It’s so wonderful, Molly! In terms of quality you won’t notice it’s a self-pub at all. Can’t wait to hear what you think!

  3. Yes—Isn’t the cover great?! Thanks, y’all! I really think you’ll like it.

  4. weheartya

     /  June 4, 2013

    First off, awesome cover. Second, awesome premise. Third, awesome review! That’s the trifecta folks: we have a winner. 🙂

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