Title: Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts)
Author: L.C. Rosen
Published: February, 2019 by Penguin
Purchase: The Book Depository
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…
Welcome to the world of horny teenagers—and most of them gay. This was certainly not your typical YA, and I applaud it (and Penguin) for that. Seeing sex being discussed so frank and openly was an eye opener at first, but then I started to appreciate just how important books like this could be to those who need them. It’s not told in a way meant to arouse, rather it’s done more to educate and inform. I would have loved this book had it existed fifteen years ago, back when I needed it, but I was still able to enjoy it now, although with my adult perspective, I did get a bit frustrated with Jack’s choices as his world started to spiral.
I think many might get caught up on the fact that Jack is gay, loves sex, and is so open about it, particularly school library stockists, so I hope those that want to read this book can still get their hands on it. It’s rare to find books on this subject matter that feel so genuine and not preachy. Jack’s advice column is, for the most part, actually good advice. It’s informative in ways that watching porn isn’t. He breaks down (I’m talking like he’s a real columnist) feelings from the physical and goes into quite a lot of depth—the questions and columns are sometimes pages long, spread all throughout the book, not just a few paragraphs here and there.
The support system Jack has—his friends, Jenna and Ben—were a great addition to the book. I loved that Ben was gay too, and had his own romantic subplot. With Jack in no desire of getting into a relationship, Ben was a stark contrast to him, but allowed readers a chance to see that either is fine—it’s all up to the individual and what they want. Jenna was basically the driving force of their group though, urging Jack on to find out who was stalking him and get it to stop. I appreciated how level headed she seemed (wanting to involve the authorities), even if she did occasionally come up with some whacky plans.
Jack’s insistence on keeping people in the dark and solving things himself was just one of those things where my adult brain was like, ‘no, tell them, you’re being stupid’. It was believable, because I can remember being a teenager, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating. This kind of angst is not my friend, which is how I ended up staying up past 1am finishing this one. I just couldn’t find a place to put it down without having it drive me crazy wondering what kind of mess he was digging himself into.
The end does kind of rush up upon you, with the whodunnit revealing itself a little too easily for my liking. I guess I would have preferred something a bit more elaborate (and scarier, perhaps), but I won’t give away any of the details. That being said, I still really enjoyed my time with Jack and his friends, and I’d definitely be up for a sequel.