Hello humans! October has been a great reading month so far, largely due to the amount of travelling I’ve been doing on the weekends. From blogger meet-ups to visits with old friends it’s been a fair few train journeys to fill with books. One such book was today’s review Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts), a YA contemporary that I wasn’t totally sure I would enjoy. You all know I’m a fantasy gal at heart so I tend not to read YA unless there’s a particular hook, in this case, it was the fact that this book promised to be a truly sex-positive YA novel, I wanted to see what that was all about.
My first time getting it in the butt was kind of weird. I think it’s going to be weird for everyone’s first time, though.
Meet Jack Rothman. He’s 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’.
He doesn’t actually expect that to come true.
But after Jack starts writing an online sex advice column, the mysterious love letters he’s been getting take a turn for the creepy. Jack’s secret admirer knows everything: where he’s hanging out, who he’s sleeping with, who his mum is dating. They claim they love Jack, but not his unashamedly queer lifestyle. They need him to curb his sexuality, or they’ll force him.
As the pressure mounts, Jack must unmask his stalker before their obsession becomes genuinely dangerous…
I think the best part about this book is how profoundly honest it is. Many could have taken this exact story and written something that only had half the information in it. It could have been patronising or self-censored and it just wouldn’t have worked. This character is worth reading because he is so totally authentic, and so are his friends. I won’t go so far as to say it’s true to every teenager, but it’s true to a fair few that I’ve met, and it’s far more true than some of the other portrayals I’ve come across, particularly in YA contemporary.
It’s a book that I think some school librarians are going to struggle with, particularly in more conservative schools, but that’s their problem frankly, and this is a book that young people need. We need places where people can get honest, accurate, helpful sex advice, particularly since sex-ed in schools is just awful (at my school it was called ‘relationships day’). I can see this book helping people, particularly young people, and that’s so important.
The thriller/mystery portion of the plot is quite difficult to read at times. I don’t mean that it is badly written, I just mean that it’s an uncomfortable topic to engage with and could be quite triggering for anyone who has gone through a similar stalking/harassment experience. The way that the issue escalates from something that just feels a bit odd, that could even be the start of a 2000s rom-com, to something truly horrifying so quickly is a powerful thing to read.
Which brings me to my one criticism, I won’t spoil the ending because obviously, it’s quite an important thing to keep quiet, but it is dealt with so quickly. It felt very much like a tv episode that had run out of time and had to rush to get the plot tied off. It was a shame because the earlier portions of the book were so well-paced that this felt very strange, and left me feeling rather flat.
Now, obviously, I’m not a gay man, so I can’t speak to the accuracy of that representation, but it did feel as though it came from a place of truth, and that I can respect.
My rating: 4/5 stars
I received a free digital advanced review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
What say you? Will you be reading this book? Let me know in the comments below!