jack of hearts (and other parts): review

✨  My rating: ★★★★

Publisher: Penguin Books

Published: 7th February 2019

Page count: 368

Reading age: 16+

Genres: young adult, contemporary, LGBTQ+ 

Synopsis ➹

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...

❥ My Review 

I skipped class for this book.

(That’s not something I do regularly).

I read it at the bus stop. I read it on the bus. I read it AS I WAS WALKING HOME FROM THE BUS STOP (ie putting myself at immense risk of tripping over and looking like a freak to any passing cars). I just couldn’t stop.

It was fabulous. I mean, just look at that cover.

Jack of Hearts is a book about so many things, with gay stereotypes and sex positivity at its forefront. It contains graphic, unfiltered and utterly unapologetic gay sex and I appreciated every second of it; it’s so incredibly refreshing to see a YA author refuse to shy aware from including content in their work that may be deemed as taboo by a significant portion of society, because at the end of the day, teenagers are having sex, and if books don’t reflect their target audience then really… what’s the point?

Jack offers a much-needed voice in YA literature. He’s hilarious and doesn’t take himself too seriously, but never allows the joke to be on him or his sexuality. He’s bold, transparent, has absolutely no concept of ‘too much information’ and I wholeheartedly wish that his sex advice column could manifest into reality and be accessible for teens all over the world to read. There’s so much great discussion about consent, asexuality, gay culture, straight womens’ fetishization of gay men and - what I liked especially - heterosexual peoples’ insistence on determining who is who in a gay relationship, enforcing their worldview that someone has to be the “man” and the other the “woman”. As heavy-handed as I probably made that sound, Jack’s open and conversational tone made every discussion or explanation feel eloquent and hugely informative with just the right amount of humour, and I know this book is going to provide so much help and validation for confused/closeted teens who want answers to questions about sexuality that they feel too afraid or uncomfortable to ask.

But aside from his reputation as a slut (reclaiming; not shaming) and sex guru, what truly made me fall in love with Jack is how wonderfully happy he is in his own skin. Positivity practically radiates from the pages and it warmed my heart to see this cute, stylish teen who wears makeup and tank tops and breathes glitter taking complete agency of his identity in a world where mere decades ago every inch of what he stands for would have been disallowed. I also adored the main side characters of Jack’s mum - who is super chill and supportive and bad-ass - and his equally wonderful best friends, Latinx Jenna and Ben who is black, gay and plus-size. (SO much fantastic representation).

Now I’m sure Jack of Hearts is guaranteed to get banned a million times, not just by homophones but by people who generally believe there is something shameful in enjoying casual sex and are therefore very much rubbed up the wrong way by Jack’s attitude. And I do agree, it is a heavily controversial novel that will by no means be for everyone. But Jack says outright that not having sex, waiting for the right person, never finding a right person, having lots of safe sex with lots of people… all of these things are okay if that’s what you want.  He doesn’t promote sex, he promotes self-worth and individuality and never feeling ashamed of doing what’s right for you and nobody else.

The reason why I knocked off a star was solely because I felt pretty disappointed with the resolution of the central mystery with the love notes. The timing of the reveal felt kind of strange to me but mostly it just didn't shock me at all, so all of the built-up tension didn’t really amount to anything worthwhile in my opinion.

Nevertheless, that did not take away from how much of a heartwarming and empowering read Jack of Hearts was overall. If you can’t handle an in-depth discussion about anal sex by page 30, stay away from this book because you’re probably not ready for Jack, and Jack should be welcomed with open arms. But if you can handle it, read this book now, queer teens especially, because it will most likely change your life.


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