Review: Jack of Hearts (and other parts)

So, this book.

This book is an interesting one, actually. (Also I wonder how many reviews I start with the line so, this book…but that’s another story entirely.)

This book.

I think it’s going to do well. I actually really do.  I think it’s going to tick a lot of boxes and I think a lot of young people are going to be reaching out for it and praising its very existence because it’s the kind of book they want to read; the kind of book that’s about their life. It’s relatable in so many ways and it’s brave an unflinching and it doesn’t shy away from the fact that its demographic may well be having sex. I don’t think there’s another book out there like this and I think it’s a good thing that soon this one will exist.

Let’s tell you a bit about what it’s about.

It’s set in high school – America and I really need to get me some more UK set YA, actually but that’s another gripe for another day – and it’s primarily about Jack.

Jack is out, and he’s proud and confident and he does his own thing and he likes sex but not relationships and he’s comfortable enough in his own skin to have no strings sex without bothering really what the gossips are saying – in fact he takes a certain amount of pleasure out of listening into people talking about him and hearing how ridiculous the rumours are. His best friend asks him to write an advice column on her website, which he does, and it seems to be a hit. But then he starts getting these anonymous letters in his locker which at first seem pretty innocuous but actually ARE NOT because the letter writer turns out to be a super creepy stalker.

So that’s it, in a nutshell.

And there’s a lot I liked about it.

I liked how bold it is, and I liked how unflinching it is in making its point and I loved how sex positive it is, and I love how its kind of saying, look, these kids are probably having sex and so lets let them know that as long as they’re safe and they’re consenting that’s ok. Sex is not bad. Sex actually can amazing.

I also like how it realises that there are questions teenagers have that they don’t know how to ask and how it takes (some of) those questions and in the shape of Jack’s column, answers them in a thoughtful, intelligent not at all preachy manner. I liked that a lot. Although honestly, less shock value might’ve been nice. Anyhow. It talks about losing your virginity and navigating relationships and it talks about blow jobs and what to do if you don’t think you’re interested in sex at all and I LOVED how boldly it tackled it all – although did it sometimes go too far the other way? I’m undecided.  I liked the dialogue too, mostly. Really, for the most part I liked how these teenagers talked like teenagers which will be what gives this book its appeal I think – it feels like it’s written by someone who gets it, by a peer.

What didn’t I like. The overuse of the word fuck. Or rather, perhaps not so much that – I don’t take offense at the word itself, it’s probably one of the most used words in the English language, and sometimes no other word will do, but I do perhaps object of the overuse of the word fuck to describe sex here in this book. And I know that actually that’s what the word is, it is a verb to describe having sex but – and wow perhaps I’m just massively na├»ve here, and perhaps I live in a bubble and perhaps it’s one of those Across the Pond, things - but I’m not sure it’s used in that context to the extent it is here? Jack uses the word fuck or talks about fucking a lot, a lot a lot, to the point I was really aware of it and it really drew away from the story for me. I’m not saying we have to be all sensitive and treat readers like delicate flowers and talk about making sweet sweet love, I just don’t think it was realistic; have sex with, sex, shag, sleep with, hook up with, screw, there’s probably a million other words that could be used not in place of but alongside fuck that would have made me feel a little bit less like somebody was trying to show off a little bit. It was too much. Which is how I felt about some points of the story if I’m honest – the fourway that Jack did-or-didn’t have, the drinking til you pass out, some of it was a bit too much, a bit try hard and whilst I get and I LOVE what this book is trying to do, I did roll my eyes a little sometimes because it felt like LOOK HOW I CAN SAY FUCK AND TALK GRAPHICALLY ABOUT SEX AND GETTING OFF YOUR FACE DRUNK I’M SO COOL AND SEX POSITIVE WHICH MEANS IT’S OK TO DESCRIBE SOMEONE’S FIRST TIME AS ‘RAPEY’ AND GLOSS OVER IT and it at times I did feel uncomfortable. But then, I’m old. But still, it made me feel weird and kind of a little bit like it was undermining its own excellent messages.

Then there’s the end. OH MY GOODNESS. I hate when I am all invested in a story only for the end to feel like it’s laughing in my face and that’s what happened here. Basically, there’s this big reveal about the stalker which CAME FROM NOWHERE and then wasn’t properly resolved. The whole build up of this storyline is so good and so suspenseful and the whole way through you want to know who it is and it’s just….such a let down and I don’t like how that happened or how the story went from there and it wasn’t handled well at all and I was so grumpy because that, the whole stalker thing was so much more important than anything else that happened in the book and it could have been addressed in a much better way than it was and I was waiting and waiting for nothing and actually I am laughing at myself because I thought I’d quite enjoyed this book until I started writing this review and now it seems it actually rather annoyed me.

I think it’ll do well though, and I think books like this need to exist, I just think this one didn’t quite reach it’s potential. It makes me sad when things don’t reach their potential.