Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts) by Lev A.C. Rosen
Publication Date: October 30, 2018
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…
This book has been on my radar since I first saw it on Netgalley (and was sadly declined). I was drawn to it because I love the idea of a sex positive YA book, especially one featuring a character like Jack, a gay boy who unapologetically loves makeup, shopping, and sex. When I saw it at my library, I had to check it out and see what it was like.
I ended up having some really, really conflicted feelings about this one.
Like I said, I love the concept. I love that YA books are moving in a more sex positive direction, and I think this book was a very good idea. I think that the advice Jack gave throughout the book was great (although I have to suspend a lot of disbelief to think that a teenager would know enough about sex to reasonably give such wide-ranging advice), and it reminded me a lot of a more risque version of the advice column in Ask Me Anything.
The discussion of consent, coming out, asexuality, healthy relationships… all of that was great. The fact that Jack and his friends smoke cigarettes, frequently get black out drunk, and hook up with random strangers on Grindr (despite being actual teenagers)? Not so great. Of course, I don’t want to censor life for the target demographic of this book. I’m not deluding myself into thinking that many teenagers aren’t going out and doing these exact things. But there’s never any consequence for these behaviors. Jack doesn’t get in trouble for smoking inside the school. (What?) Aside from a mini-lecture from his mother, there’s very little said about the alcohol. There’s never a discussion about the possible repercussions of lying about your age on a hook up app. Jack has a lot of sex with a lot of different people and good for him, but it felt like all of this was inserted into the book to scream, “HEY, LOOK AT JACK! HE’S ONE OF THE COOL KIDS!”
Now, aside from that, one of the other things I wanted to mention was the mystery, or, really, the lack of it. The thing is, throughout the book, Jack occasionally gets these ominous notes from a stalker. They start out fine, along the lines of “I think you’re cute” and slowly progress into some really creepy, threatening stuff. Jack gets freaked out by it, but he never really does anything aside from worry, so what’s the point? I found the principal’s reaction troubling, to say the least, and the way everything ended left a lot to be desired. If this were just a book about the sex column without this weird stalker plot, I think I would have enjoyed it more.
All in all, I think that this book had a great concept, but I’m not entirely on board with the execution. I appreciate the open and honest Q&A about sex and think it’ll help a lot of teens, but the constant partying and constant sex made me, an adult, feel weird. If the characters were even a couple years older, this would have been less of an issue, I think.
Have you read Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts)? Is it on your TBR?
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