Jack of Hearts (And Other Parts)

Jack of Hearts (And Other Parts)
Written by L. C. Rosen
Contemporary, LGBT, Diverse, Mystery
352 Pages
Publishing February 19th 2019
Thank you to Penguin Teen Australia
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★★★★★
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.

Jack Rothman is seventeen. A solid student with a talent for art, he likes partying, makeup and boys. Sometimes all at the same time. His active, unashamed sex life makes him a red hot topic for the high school gossip machine, but Jack doesn't really care too much about what the crowd is saying about him. His mantra is, it could be worse.

And then it is.

When Jack starts writing a teen sex advice column for his best friend's website, he begins to receive creepy and threatening love letters. His admirer is obsessed with Jack, they know who he's hanging out with, who he's sleeping with, who his mum is dating. And while they say they love Jack, they don't love his lifestyle. They want him to curb his sexuality and personality. And if he won't, they will force him.
As his stalker starts to ratchet up the pressure, it's up to Jack and his friends to uncover their identity, before their love becomes genuinely dangerous.
His reputation proceeds him. He's non conforming, open about his sexuality and his eyeliner game is on point. He's seventeen year old Jack Rothman, high school student and now online sex advice columnist, Jack of Hearts and Other Parts with the encouragement of friends Jemma and Ben. Jack makes no secret of his sexual exploits, he's comfortable with his body, his sexuality and is an advocate for safe, fun sex. He no longer listens to the gossip of his sexual prowess, the private schools halls echoing with rumours of casual sex and a trail of broken hearted boys.

The column is anonymous, encouraging students at the elite school to ask questions about relationships, sexuality and how to navigate life as a teen but it seems Jack has a mysterious admirer as a series of notes are found in his school locker. Each one increasingly more disturbing. What appears to be misguided love letters soon becomes threatening, they know where he lives, who Jack is sleeping with and details about the lives of those around him, including his single mother.

I absolutely loved Jack. In a world of Mary Sue characters, Jack's frank and openness is refreshing. He's factual, doesn't sugar coat his words and has a confidence and swagger that most of us strive for. Jack identifies as gay, he's sexually active and a safe sex advocate. Identifying as male, Jack doesn't conform to gender standards, he loves ladies fashion, eyeliner and is widely accepted by his peers. His single mother is a renowned doctor who used a sperm donor to conceive Jack and although Jack has never had a father figure in his life, his mother has ensured Jack has never needed to go without. All except her company, working long, strenuous hours at the hospital. Being open about his sexuality has somehow become the topic of Monday morning discussion within the hallowed school halls, Jack listening to the whispers from the girls bathroom of his sexual exploits, the next more outlandish than the last.

Although Jack doesn't care what his peers believe, the narrative explores how straight females often fetishise gay men by sexually objectifying them for their own sexual fantasies and as Jack is open about his prowess, believing they have the right to assert themselves into his life. Friends Jenna and Ben are a wonderful means of support. Jenna, a bisexual Latinx and Ben, a black young man identifying as gay. Ben is a budding fashion designer while Jenna hosts a website of investigative journalism, asking Jack to contribute to the site with his advice column. Jack is reluctant but wants to make a difference and perhaps clear up the misconceptions about his own life along the way. The anonymous letters allow Jack to talk about his own experiences, from casual sex, consent, how to give a successful blow job or what happens when both of you want to be on the bottom. It's brutally honest and utterly charming, I loved seeing a character in young adult so open about sex and not ashamed to admit to enjoying it. Of course not all adolescents are sexually active. Some choose not to be or identify as asexual. Through Jack's column, he is incredibly sex positive, asexual positive and reiterates the importance of safe, fun and consensual sex by choice. It's a little crass, a little cringe but so incredibly entertaining. Fabulously so.

Jack's openness attracts a secret admirer who now believes they have the right to demand access to the seventeen year old. It begins as letters confessing how they admire Jack but soon turn disturbing as the letters become more frequent and possessive, threatening Jack, his mother and friends unless he conforms to their demands. No casual sex and to stop writing his column. I found Jack incredibly realistic. At seventeen, he's all about having a great time. He drinks, is usually the life of the party and doesn't mind a dirty grind on the dance floor with the next hot guy that catches his eye. The threats leave Jack feeling flat, rather than sparkle he begins to conform into someone unrecognisable in the hope this will keep his friends safe.

It also touches upon the lack of acceptance from others, in particular Jack's principal who insinuates that Jack should try to blend in, be someone he's not and stop drawing attention to himself. That somehow, he is to blame for the threatening letters. It doesn't sugar coat how ignorant and in this case, homophobic adults and adults in positions of power can be. It also explores casual homophobic slurs that Jack experiences through anonymous emails addressed to the column and also the stereotypes placed upon queer community members by straight women in particular. On the surface Jack of Hearts (And Other Parts) is a hilarious and easygoing contemporary narrative but explores deep societal issues that will invoke discussion among the teen audience about prejudice and how to create more inclusive environments for their peers without judgement.

It was glorious. I can't stress enough how much we need these narratives in young adult. Yes it's sexually explicit, yes it's eyebrow raising but it also normalises the sexual spectrum in a category of literature which favours scenes that fade to black. Recommended for the mature young adult reader, Jack of Hearts (And Other Parts) is a funny, laugh out loud, heartwarming contemporary about life, love and getting laid. 

17 comments

  1. Wow... This looks amazing. Based on your review, it kind of reminds me of something that Alice Oseman would write (a coming-of-age sort of story that explores diverse characters in a realistic way). Definitely looks like the sort of book I'd enjoy!

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    1. I haven't read anything by Alice Oseman yet but I think this might be a little more mature in terms of graphic content but very much a celebration of sexuality as well. This one will appeal to such a wide range of both young adult and new adult readers, it's magnificent!

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  2. Yasss for books that talk about safe sex! What a wonderful review Kelly, you've got me a fan of Jack already!

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    1. He's such a brilliant character Amber, sassy and fabulous!

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  3. I'm so glad that you loved this one. I thought it was amazing and I just loved Jack. I thought it was great that he was so open about himself and his sexuality, and obviously I loved that he was all about safe sex. I thought the people who wrote him letters were all interesting and diverse. I liked that they weren't all from people who identify as gay, and there was a nice variety of questions. I can imagine readers learning a lot from this one!!

    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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    1. It was so refreshing to see characters so open about sex. both Jack and Jenna to a lesser extent. There are plenty of teens who are sexually active and I loved that it promoted the exploration of sexuality and their bodies but within safe and consensual environments.

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  4. Great review. I love how you really broke down the character and the theme of YA sexuality. I love books that break the taboo.
    Rebecca @ The Portsmouth Review

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    1. Thanks Rebecca and I couldn't agree more. We need more books like this one within young adult literature, raising open and honest discussions about sex. I really hope you enjoy this one, would love to see what you think of it.

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  5. Fantastic review Kelly! Loved it!
    I NEED this book in my life ASAP <3 :-)
    I can't wait to meet Jack.

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    1. This book will absolutely rock your world Sarah.

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  6. I think this book won me over with the first line of that blurb -- though I did not expect the stalker-ending. There's a lot of important topics in this, but from the sounds of it, the author has handled this so skilfully.

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    1. It's so beautifully written Verushka, and sex positive! I loved how cheeky and honest it was. I'd love to see what you think of it!

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  7. Jack's open and frank personality really does sound like a breath of fresh air. I'm all for books that are sex positive so I'm glad to hear this one is so well written. Great review!

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    1. Thanks Suzanne! It's such a brilliant read and I hope the beginning of an open discussion about the lack of actual sex in young adult literature. It deals with so many heavy themes of illness, loss, even abuse but why do so many authors shy away from sex? It's such a breath of fresh air!

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  8. This is a really well-written review Kelly! I've seen this book around and while the title sounds very light-hearted, the story seems to pack a lot of punch. I can't wait to read this!

    Tasya // The Literary Huntress

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    1. I can almost guarantee you'll love this one Tasya, it's so entertaining and brilliantly written but also discusses consent and safe sex among others. It's magnificent!

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  9. Lovely review, Kel! I just added this to my TBR, so thanks for putting it on my radar! I love that Jack is open about his sexuality and doesn't conform to the norm. He's proud of who he is. I also like that the author puts a mysterious spin on the story, even though I'm sure there's a lot of truth to what is happening to him. People deal with threats every day, and it's awesome that there's a book out there highlighting that.

    Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear? 💬

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