Release Date: July 26, 2018
Received From: Review copy from the author
Em is confused about a lot of things: who she is, what she wants, how she’s going to pass Alchemy when she’s awful at it. The one thing she’s not confused about is how much she wants to buy her best friend (and college roommate) the best birthday present ever. Luckily the local magic supply shop is hiring.
Her plan to get a job there would be working perfectly if not for her coworker Phineas who is in turns aggravating and endearingly awkward. She’s not sure if she wants to date him or wants to be him. The more time they spend together the more she thinks it may be both.
Help Wanted is an 18,000 word novella with a gender and sexuality questioning f/m romance. It is the first in a new series about students at a contemporary magic college.
GENDER: questioning, presumed cisgender
SEXUALITY: gray asexual, presumed bisexual
ROMANTIC ORIENTATION: gray aromantic, presumed biromantic
PAIRING: M/F, M/Questioning
TROPES: workplace romance, class disparity, forced proximity, tutor x tutoree, magical abilities
TAGS: new adult, contemporary, fantasy, romance, queer romance, queer characters, touch averse character, coming of age
WARNINGS: gender dysphoria, death mention, birds
***Note: The main character, Em, is questioning her gender for the majority of this short, and while she acknowledges that she’s not precisely a girl, her pronouns don’t change during this story, so I will be using she/her to refer to Em’s character.***
This short story was so cute, and I enjoyed it just as much as I have Emery’s previous work!
It would be very loosely considered a romance, in my opinion, as it’s more of a coming of age story in which the main character, Em, questioning and exploring different parts of her identity. From the very first page, we get to see that she’s confused about how she feels about her body. The face and body she sees in the mirror doesn’t match when she feels–neither do typically feminine terms–but she’s also not quite sure she’s a boy, though presenting as masculine makes her feel better about her appearance. When she meets Phineas, she experiences the often unsettling question of whether she wants to date the other person or be them? (Both. Both. Both is good.) This then elicits a queer panic in which Em has to evaluate her romantic and sexual orientations. She acknowledges that, up to this point, she’s never wanted to date anyone, and it is understandably terrifying that she has those feelings for Phineas. Most of the novel is Em trying to sort these questions out for herself, while also going to school, working, studying, and trying to make time for her friends. I think that Emery did an amazing job of illustrating the confusing barrage of questions one is faced with when they’re trying to figure out the complexities of gender, sexual, and romantic orientations when you know something is different but you can’t quite point a finger as to what.
Along with the queer representation, I really enjoyed the bit of worldbuilding that Emery inserted into the short story. All the characters go to a college for magic users, and it’s fascinating the way Emery has built a multitude of different kinds of magic into such a short book without making the information overwhelming. As this appears to be the start of a series, I am really looking forward to seeing more of these magic systems and how they play out in the contemporary world Emery is writing in!
Emery has been slowly writing their way through every fantasy trope since they were little (some of them more than once). Maybe someday they’ll have covered them all. And also made them much more queer.
In their free time, they can be found gaming and documenting the whole thing on twitter at @mixeduppainter. Their ridiculous levels of terror over horror games are near legendary.