Meatworks by Jordan Castillo Price 

JCP Publishing Presents:


Desmond Poole is damaged in more ways than one.

If he was an underachiever before, he’s entirely useless now that he’s lost his right hand. He spends his time drowning his sorrows in vodka while he deliberately blows off the training that would help him master his new prosthetic. Social Services seems determined to try and stop him from wallowing in his own filth, so he’s forced to attend an amputee support group. He expects nothing more than stale cookies, tepid decaf and a bunch of self-pitying sob stories, so he’s blindsided when a fellow amputee catches his eye.

Corey Steiner is a hot young rudeboy who works his robotic limb like an extension of his own body, and he’s smitten by Desmond’s crusty punk rock charm from the get-go. Unfortunately, Desmond hasn’t quite severed ties with his ex-boyfriend, and Corey isn’t known for his maturity or patience.

Meatworks is set in a bleak near-future where cell phone and personal computer technologies never developed. In their place, robotics flourished. Now robots run everything from cars to coffee pots. Taking the guesswork out of menial tasks was intended to create leisure time, but instead robots have made society dependent and passive.

Desmond loathes robots and goes out of his way to avoid them. But can he survive without the robotic arm strapped to the end of his stump?

(Posted on previous site.)

First I had to look up “rude boy” as a term – the urban dictionary defines it basically : [rude boys and girls] “were developed by the first ska bands to mimic the depression(or) post war gansters of america. The word ‘Rude’ is refrenced to Jamaican culture where it is slang for mischevious or obscene.” And that, my friends does really define our friend Corey. But in a totally sweet way. He is a bit like a mischievous boy, not out to hurt anyone, but not up to a heck of a lot of “good works” either.

Desmond, on the other hand is kind of the quintessential “slacker”. He’s not your typical romantic hero by any stretch of the imagination. But I think that’s kind of the point. This isn’t really your typical romance. In fact, some my argue that it isn’t a romance at all. This might influence your decision to read it, but let me tell you this much – romance or not, it’s a great book.

JCP is an amazing author who always produces detailed, rich, full, three-dimensional characters who (many times) lead ordinary lives in an extraordinary way. This book is full of texture and subtext, and is (no pun intended) meaty. And, though it may not quite fulfill the most die-hard romantic souls out there, it is definitely romantic and really, quite hopeful at the end.

Mostly this is a book about Desmond’s growth as a person and as a person with a “disability”. He loses his hand in a stupid accident with his “buddies” and struggles with accepting the new prosthetic limb he is given. In JCP’s book, the world of robotics has advanced and more or less taken over life as we know it. Not quite a dystopian future, but futuristic with a bit of darkness. Desmond rejects robotics, including his new arm, which is robotic. As a result, he doesn’t really do much of anything – except drink a lot and look at his sea monkeys. He’s been dumped by his social worker boyfriend for keeping up too many walls and isn’t really looking to replace him.

Part of Desmond’s contingencies for collecting disability pay from the government hinges on him going to a support group. Since he doesn’t want to/can’t work anymore, he goes along with the program, and ends up meeting Corey, another “gimp” who lost his hand in an industrial accident.

There is somewhat instant attraction between the two and a small love story progresses from this first meeting through the final pages, but it is not really the main thrust of the story, and though it definitely ends at least HFN, you don’t quite get a bunch of warm fuzzies from it, but you’re not sad either.

Most of what makes this book so damn good is the care that JCP uses in moving Desmond along on his “woe is me” life style and how he manages to confront a bunch of demons, both before the accident, during his relationship with the social worker and after through the mistakes he makes with Corey.

The language and metaphors JCP uses to tell this story is so evocative and stirring. They way she uses Desmond’s arm as an analogy for both literally and figuratively coming to grips with his life is excellent. The phrasing is gritty and humorous and pulls you right into the story. I highlighted tons of this book – so much of JCP’s words say one thing, but tell so much of the story, in a different way.

Some examples:

“Exact same egg we had in Health Class,” Corey said. “I’ve heard some of the new models have a diaper button, too.”
“Just what the world needs. Robotic shit.”

Desmond’s words definitely have more meaning than the sarcastic humor he displays for Corey here.

He tilted his head and studied my bare neck – which was a weird shade of gray/green where the nickel of the old hardware chain had rested against the skin all these years. Funny, how I never realized how bad it was until I popped the lock and watched the chain slide off. It probably wasn’t a permanent stain, but only time would tell.

I think JCP is using the chain in this section to mean so much more than the actual removal of an old piece of jewelry. It could mean his old way of life, his old relationship, his old body… And like the stain on his neck, really, only time will tell how much has truly changed.

I found Desmond’s relationship with Jim to be fascinating. Was he good with Desmond, certainly not, but could he have been? I don’t know. Is Corey the best guy for Desmond? Again, I don’t know. But is he the best guy for him right now. Definitely. I remember how Corey related to the robotic egg and I think – yeah, there is a ton of potential here and if Desmond can grow with Corey, the two could really be an amazing couple.

On one hand, I would really love to follow up with these guys and see where they go together. But on the other hand, I kind of like being able to make that future up for myself. In the end notes, JCP does not suggest there will be more of these guys (at least not planned) so I don’t know if we will see them again. But, that’s ok. This is a complete story, with an ending that really does satisfy. Yes, it would be great to read more about them (like any good book), but I think we are left where they had to be left. Happy enough. Working on life together, for now. Still not perfect, but much better together than apart.

On a final note – there is a bit near the end that I just loved, the part with the magic marker and the polaroid picture and Corey’s response to it. So graceful, funny, sweet and sexy too. (You’ll know what I’m talking about when you read it.) Fabulous!

I definitely recommend this book – 5 of 5 hearts – it’s not as romantic some romances you might find, but it has so much heart. The writing is brilliant and – as usual – JCP’s cover is AMAZING!