Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts) blurb:
Jack Rothman is seventeen and loves partying, makeup and boys – sometimes all at the same time. His sex life makes him the hot topic for the high school gossip machine, but who cares? Like Jack always says, “it could be worse”.
And then it is. After Jack starts writing an online sex advice column, the mysterious love letters he’s been receiving take a turn for the creepy. Jack’s secret admirer loves him, but not his unashamedly queer lifestyle. And if Jack won’t curb his sexuality voluntarily, they’ll force him.
As the pressure mounts, Hack must unmask his stalker before their obsession becomes genuinely dangerous…
Remember when I read Camp earlier this year and in I screamed about it gently for 3 months until the Aussie release date happened? Well, I loved it so much that I looked up Rosen’s other books. This is his only other YA contemporary book (he has some adult books as well), and so I got it, and read it immediately after it arrived.
The best way I think I can describe this story is this: Remember in Simon vs how there were cute messages from Blue, and then Simon got blackmailed? Well, this is more if Blue and the blackmailer were one character. And if Simon was already out and having sex, and the blackmailer was trying to shove him back in the closet.
… on Mondays, I like to come in here for my second-period break, smoke a cigarette (the only time I do, mostly), and hear about what I did over the weekend. It’s scandalous.
This book is incredible, and I don’t really have more of an intro than that, so let’s dive straight in as to why.
Let’s get really real for a moment, and then I’ll start gushing about this book. This book is IMPORTANT, and I desperately wish it had been out when I was a teenager. Not necessarily the story of it, but the messages in this book are what make it important.
In this story, Jack writes an advice column where people write in questions and he responds. Kind of like an Agony Aunt or Dear Abby scenario. The advice given in these for teens who are trying to figure out who they are and what they like is what should be taught in schools. Not feeling attracted to anyone? That’s ok and you’re not broken. Thinking about having sex for the first time between two males? Here’s what you should think about and things that might happen. Jack also calls out the fetishisation of gay sex by straight people, whether it’s men watching lesbian porn, or women discussing who tops or bottoms in a m/m relationship.
The story itself is also centred around bullying, anxiety and slut-shaming, but also touches on topics such as eating disorders, bi-erasure, and stereotypes (although you can see them happening, these are not discussed in depth). These conversations are so important because no one should be made to feel like their actions have caused someone else to attack them, and it certainly doesn’t mean that if something happens to you, that it’s your own fault. And it discusses how people in authority should help as opposed to target or belittle.
“Perhaps Jack, if you attracted less attention, you wouldn’t be getting emails like this. If this is real, I’d suggest stopping the column, and trying to keep a low profile.”
All of this is why this book is incredible and on that basis, I cannot recommend this book enough.
Now, with all of the important messaging going on, you might think that either the story or the characters take a hit in the execution, but that’s not the case at all. While Jack is obviously the MC here, the rest of the cast aren’t lacking in motivations or complexities. While they aren’t as fully fleshed out as Jack, they are compelling enough on their own to not just be there to drive the plot forward.
But this book is also funny, sweet and enjoyable to read. I smashed it out over two days, but I’d started it at 11pm, and was still done by 11am the next day. It has an amazing compellingness to it that you have to read it to find out who the blackmailer is, so I guess it feels a little thriller-y as well. But it’s certainly not scary. I was more concerned for Jack’s wellbeing than I was worried about what the blackmailer would do.
There is NOTHING bad about this book. But I am going to leave a warning for triggers here:
- there is an on-page eating disorder, but it’s never discussed as an eating disorder
- bullying and harassment
- stalking and blackmail
- discussions around sending nude pictures of underage (17) teens / child pornography
- slut-shaming and victim blaming
- on page underage drinking and drug use
While these are all in the book, I think it’s talked about in a healthy way, but as always, it’s up to you to read what you are comfortable with.
To be entirely honest, I’m not sure that there’s much I can say here that I haven’t already said, except for this: If you are looking for a funny, queer, contemporary read that tackles some hard issues, but also has sex positive messages, then this is the book for you. It’s definitely not everyone’s cup of tea, but I’d still recommend that you give it a chance.
Just ’cause I like sex and have a decent amount of it doesn’t mean everyone else should. Everyone gets to use their naughty parts however and as often as they’d like.
… recommended for …
- queer fiction
- hard contemporary reads
- high school tropes
- Always Never Yours by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka
- Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli