CALLING THE SHOW by J. A. Rock
Calling The Show by J. A. Rock
Reviewed by Cassie
Stage manager Jesse Ferelit is unhappy to hear that his usual lighting board operator has chicken pox. He’s even more unhappy when he finds out the replacement, Simeck Whedon, doesn’t have any experience with lights at all, and is a theater minor from the New College, where the students create their own majors. Actually meeting Sim doesn’t improve Jesse’s opinion of him. They seem to rub each other the wrong way, and Sim’s laid-back attitude annoys Jesse to no end. Jesse has a reputation for being extremely particular and exacting in his shows. He wants to make a career out of stage managing, and he’s not about to let some guy who doesn’t know what he’s doing wreck his show. He doesn’t count on being attracted to Sim. With his social anxiety issues and general problems relating to others, an attraction for a guy like Sim seems like a recipe for disaster. Besides, he’s graduating in less than a year, and he doesn’t have time for a boyfriend.
Sim is equally unhappy after his first meeting with Jesse. The stage manager is abrasive, rude, and borderline obsessive-compulsive. Still, there’s something about him that draws Sim in. After some difficulties getting along, and many uncomfortable moments, it becomes apparent that the attraction is mutual. They’re so different, however, that a relationship seems like a bad idea.
When Jesse agrees to let Sim teach him to hula-hoop, they realize they might have more in common than they thought. Can an uptight, theater-obsessed senior and an undecided, out-and-proud, outgoing sophomore find a way to create something real together?
I really enjoyed Calling the Show. Jesse is an awkward character. He’s anxious in social situations, painfully controlling in his theater environment, and tends to be abrasive and rude when he feels uncomfortable. Despite the fact that he’s a total jerk to Sim for no real reason at first, I couldn’t help sympathizing with Jesse. He’s a good person at heart, but he has no idea how to reach out to others. The only people he is comfortable with are his supportive mother (who I loved), his theater department advisor, and a few of the other theater techs. When he starts to come out of his shell and attempt to form a connection to Sim, I wanted him to finally be happy instead of just content. He doesn’t have any history of romantic relationships to learn from, so once they start dating he’s winging it. He also has no idea how to deal with the desire for a bit of kink he finds in both Sim and himself, although his willingness to try and figure things out was admirable.
Sim is pretty much Jesse’s opposite. He’s much more laid-back. He has no idea what he wants to do when he leaves school, or even what he wants to major in. He’s the president of their college’s Queer Campus Project. He’s had boyfriends. His relationship with his parents is strained at best. A relationship with rude, awkward Jesse seems like a terrible idea at first, until Sim begins to get to know the man beneath Jesse’s prickly shell. Unlike Jesse, Sim’s not uncomfortable exploring his desire for a bit of kink in their sex life, which leads to some hot scenes.
There are also some very emotional scenes, as Jesse’s potential future and difficulties handling emotional connections and Sim’s family drama come between the two young men. They’re both in stages of transition, Jesse even more so, and JA Rock handles that in a realistic way. The problems they face are problems college-aged men would have to deal with when starting a relationship. Even Jesse’s anxiety issues seemed very real. The secondary characters are well-drawn and add color to the story. Being a drama geek myself, I found the theater scenes engaging too. Overall, Calling the Show is a realistic tale that combines humor and sweetness with heat to create a very enjoyable read.