Fandoms and Mistaken Identities: My Shipped Review

I love the movie You've Got Mail -- while it's definitely dated, there's just nothing like a good ol' mistaken identity enemies-to-lovers plot. So when I learned about a geeky modern-day YA retelling, my sci-fi-loving heart just HAD to have it!

Did it live up to the standards of my comfort movie? Let's find out ...

Book Title: Shipped
Author: Meredith Tate
Publisher/Year: Putnam, 2021
Genre: Contemporary Rom-Com
Number of Pages (According to Goodreads): 272
My Rating: 5 out of 5

Book description (from Goodreads):

Can two IRL enemies find their happily ever after online?

Stella Greene and Wesley Clarke are Gene Connolly Memorial High School's biggest rivals. While the two have been battling it out for top student, it's a race to the bottom when it comes to snide comments and pulling the dirtiest prank. For years, Stella and Wes have been the villain in each other's story, and now it's all-out war.

And there is no bigger battle than the one for valedictorian, and more specifically, the coveted valedictorian scholarship.

But Stella and Wes have more in common than they think. Both are huge fans of Warship Seven, a popular sci-fi TV drama with a dedicated online following, and the two start chatting under aliases--without a clue that their rival is just beyond the screen. They realize that they're both attending SciCon this year, so they plan to dress in their best cosplay and finally meet IRL.

While tensions at school are rising and SciCon inches closer and closer, the enemy lines between Stella and Wes blur when a class project shows them they might understand one another better than anyone else--and not just in cosplay. 

Shipped opens with a popular sci-fi show getting cancelled after one season, and because that is PRECISELY my greatest fear when it comes to my favorite shows, I just had to keep reading ... and gobbled the book up in a matter of hours. No regerts, y'all :P

Enemies to Lovers Squared

To my mind, the most god tier enemies to lovers stories are the ones where the two characters hate each other because they have flaws they have to overcome to become better people -- and once they learn their lesson, they complement each other. That is EXACTLY what happens in this story! Both Stella and Wesley are deeply flawed characters with strong motivations, and it was a joy to see them develop over the course of the book to become better people -- and better partners <3

We also get snippets of the cancelled sci-fi show that brings the central couple together, and I especially loved how the enemies-to-lovers ship in the show mirrored the progression of Stella and Wes's own relationship. Several of those sequences gave me chills because of the parallels. Long story short, I ship #Lewton!

Why Am I Doing Literary Analysis on a Rom-Com?

While the core of the story is, of course, the romance, it touched on several important themes that I loved seeing. A big running theme is the way female characters are often treated in male-centric sci-fi, and how toxic gatekeeping fan culture can make anyone who isn't a white man feel unwelcome in a fandom space. There are also discussions of classism and the culture around academic success.

I found these elements especially interesting for Stella's character arc, because a lot of Stella's standoffishness stems from discrimination she's faced in the sci-fi community, as well as her struggles as a member of a low-income family. However, her flaws aren't excused in the story, and she confronts her judgmental tendencies and becomes more self-assured by the end of the book.

Look at me, doing literary analysis on a rom-com. A rom-com. I guess that just goes to show you how well-executed this book is!

Trigger and Content Warnings for Shipped

This book may not be for you if you're sensitive to discussions/depictions of classism and misogyny.

Final Thoughts

Overall, this story is a compulsive, fluffy read with ALL the feels that perfectly weaves fandom and rom-com together! Now if you'll excuse me, I have to write a 198,000-word hurt/comfort fic to deal with my book hangover.

Thanks to Penguin Teen for the ebook review copy! Shipped is now available everywhere, so check out the links below if you want to snag your own copy:

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