Review Blog

Mar 07 2019

Jack of Hearts (and other parts) by L.C. Rosen

cover image

Penguin 2018. ISBN 9780241365014.
(Age: 18+) Themes: LGBTQ. Don't get me wrong, my secondary libraries have acquired a number of LGBTQ novels beginning with Kate Walker's Peter in the nineties. To be honest, the hedonism of the students in this one, likely disturbs me more than their sex lives. However, considering our secondary school populations can range in age from 11 to 18 years, I'm not sure whether Jack of hearts is that one step too far - much like Rammstein's imitative pornographic music video became as immoral as the social commentary they so powerfully achieved.
Previously published in the USA, Rosen's actual storyline is a suspenseful cautionary tale of cyber safety. Jack, a highschool student, falls victim to an anonymous stalker, who uses both text messages and printed notes folded into origami shapes. Due to his reputation as a promiscuous gay teenager, school authorities are not much help, so Jack and his friends attempt to investigate the identity of an increasingly ominous person - presumably also gay, like Jack. The characters are fully fleshed out as they too become targets. Jenna is a serious, aspiring journalist and straight. She encourages Jack to write a weekly guest column for her blog, which is essentially a sex advice column. Ben, is gay but unlike Jack, a romantic who is waiting for a deep and meaningful relationship with his first boyfriend. Jack's mum is a doctor and single parent, who has a healthy relationship with Jack. Nance is that one teacher who 'gets it'. Jack himself, despite his own preferred 'love them and leave them' lifestyle, is an insightful student of human nature, advocating good communication, kindness and self-respect in every piece of advice he gives.
Here's the thing, the quantity and explicit nature of Jack's own sex life is the deal breaker for me. That said, I can't see the problem including it with 18+ material. Perhaps, a solution would be to add it to non-fiction as a relationships advice manual, where the narrative element becomes a suspenseful and interesting counterpoint; not that the publisher thought to develop either an index or glossary. The gambit of Jack's relationship knowledge would warrant both.
I enjoyed Jack of hearts because I am an adult, yet obviously there are YA publishers whom Jack acknowledges for their support, who feel otherwise. Lastly, Penguin includes a bonus first chapter to whet our whistles for another LGBTQ title, The miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth - now a motion picture.
Deborah Robins

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