Study Guide

James Wentworth in My Heartbeat

James Wentworth

Walking, Talking, Kissing Encyclopedia of Knowledge

James seems to have it impossibly together, for a teenager. He's eloquent, confident, graceful, intelligent, and oh, by the way, he's bisexual, but that's like, no biggie.

Actually, he'd probably have a problem with us labeling him as "bisexual," as he doesn't really identify with any particular sexuality. He loves whom he loves, and that's pretty admirable, if not a bit confusing for the people that he loves. This is due, at least in part, to the fact that he's been seeing a psychiatrist for a long time in order to hash out his particular feelings on the subject.

I ask James if his parents know that reasonable people don't think being gay is a mental illness.
"They do know," he says. "They send me so I can make my own choices without being influenced by their deep desire that I be straight."
(7.47)

That psychiatrist must really know their stuff because James seems to have all the answers. This is doubly surprising considering the fact that his parents are chronically M.I.A. (missing in action), and he's essentially been raised by himself and the McConnells.

So how does a kid who's been emotionally neglected by absentee parents get so, for lack of a better descriptor, perfect? He's incredibly mature in the face of really difficult situations, he's patient, and he never seems to abuse his freedom to do practically whatever he wants. Sure, he sneaks a drink here and there and spends money a tad frivolously, but he really does handle himself and his life with aplomb. So how does he manage?

Well, our best explanation is that James has a very important role in the book, so instead of fully fleshing him out as a character, he instead serves a purpose. Ellen needs a mentor, someone she can turn to who will have all the answers in her quest to understand Link's identity crisis. Who better to answer questions about Link than the young man who loves him and also has a fluid sexual proclivity?

James's character, in addition to being Ellen's mentor, is also the embodiment of Ellen's ideal man. He's artistic, loving, intelligent, and kind. Put that together with his uncanny ability to have an answer for everything, and James is starting to seem a bit unrealistic. Given how real some of what Ellen's trying to figure out is, though, James and his high functioning ways are a welcome island in the storm.