Author: L. C. Rosen
Publication Date: 7th February 2019 (paperback release date)
Format: eARC & Paperback
This book was received from the publisher in return for an honest review
About the book:
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.
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…
Jack is an American High Schooler who likes having sex and isn’t ashamed of it. Convinced by a friend he takes up the role of relationship advice giver, but soon becomes the subject of a stalker whose actions become increasingly sinister.
I’m not going to lie, I very nearly didn’t read this book. I was fortunate enough to be approved for an eARC on NetGalley but the formatting was terrible – I mean really bad. The book is formatted wonderfully, with text conversations between Jack, Jenna and Ben laid out as images, looking just as you’d find them on a smart phone. The notes Jack received were also shown as images. In the eARC the texts were just plain lines of text, with no way of telling a) they were meant to be text messages and b) who was speaking at any point. The images of the notes were awkwardly split between pages, meaning I had to flick back and forwards and at points parts of sentences were repeated until it became unreadable. Fortunately I was intrigued enough by the premise to pick up a copy of the paperback and the rest as they say is history.
There are many many things I love about this book, the plot and the writing is absolutely wonderful. I loved the way it gradually built, with the story intensifying, the tension I felt skyrocketed as I started the wonder where it would eventually end! Once I reached a certain point in the book that was it, I just had to keep reading, I needed to get to the end, to find out what happened to Jack. The notes and the actions of the stalker got increasingly sinister and I needed to see if they discovered who was leaving the notes and stalking him, or if something terrible would happen as there were certainly some worrying signs!
The main reason I cared so much were the wonderful central characters Jack, Jenna and Ben. As characters they felt very real; they’re not perfect, sometimes they did stupid things and made bad decisions but they’re teenagers, it’s to be expected! Also it was very clear there was a genuine affection between the three of them, even if they have disagreements. One of the things I really appreciated about the book was the fact they drank, they did drugs and they had sex, for me it added to the realness of it all. Some (although not all) teenagers do at least one of these things and there’s not point in pretending they don’t…
I thought the addition of Nance as a supportive adult was fantastic, and I was so pleased to see Jack had someone on his side. Especially when he was made to feel like he couldn’t approach his mum about everything that was happening.
Which brings me on the Principle Pattyn; Principle Pattyn was not a likable character but for me one of the most important – Principle Pattyn was at the centre of a theme that really struck a chord with me, the idea of victim blaming. As a mixed race woman it’s something that I’ve thought about before, what if something were to happen to me and the person I reported it to decided it was some how my fault, that because of the clothes I happened to be wearing at the time, or the fact I’d gone out drinking meant I was some how asking for it. Or quite frankly because of the colour of my skin and their own prejudices they decided I deserved it and couldn’t be bothered to pay more than lip service to any sort of investigation. I have Principle Pattyn personified that fear of mine, rather than taking Jack’s concerns seriously he suggested it was his own fault, that he was some how asking for it by living his life the way he was and if he changed the way he chose to live, to fade back into the shadows, maybe the stalking would stop. He was far more concerned about policing Jack’s behaviour than doing anything to establish ways they could locate the stalker. What’s even more terrifying is to think that this is taking place in New York City, supposedly a liberal, metropolitan city – if you can be faced with this sort of response from a person of authority here, just imagine how much worse it could be in another much more conservative state…
After my complaining about the formatting of the eARC I also must say how much I enjoyed the layout of the paperback. The inclusion of the messages, laid out as they would be in a group chat made the conversation feel quick. There was no need for additional text to clarify who was saying what, it felt very snappy and just real, I also thought the way the notes were shown in the book was really effective.
One final thing I absolutely loved were Jack’s advice columns! It may be a novel but there was some absolutely fantastic advice contained which I hope will help some of the books readers in their own lives, whether it’s about sex, communicating in relationships, or preparing to come out for the first time there’s some great advice to be found in this book! Not just for teenagers either!
I’m so pleased I didn’t let the bad formatting of the eARC I downloaded put me off and went out and bought a copy. Jack of Hearts is such a wonderful book, it doesn’t sugar coat issues, teenagers have sex, and drink, and smoke and swear and the book isn’t afraid to show that side of life. I really grew to love Jack, and was genuinely concerned for him as the stalking escalated. I think through Principle Pattyn the book portrayed a very real attitude that prevents victims from speaking up and it was great to see Jack still get support from one of his teachers. Also the advice Jack gives in his column were fantastic!
About The Author
LEV AC ROSEN is the author of books for all ages. Two for adults: All Men of Genius (Amazon Best of the Month, Audie Award Finalist) and Depth (Amazon Best of the Year, Shamus Award Finalist, Kirkus Best Science Fiction for April). Two middle-grade books: Woundabout (illustrated by his brother, Ellis Rosen), and The Memory Wall. His first Young Adult Novel, Jack of Hearts (and other parts) is forthcoming in 2018. His books have been sold around the world and translated into different languages as well as being featured on many best of the year lists, and nominated for awards.
Lev attended Oberlin College, where he majored in creative writing, and then Sarah Lawrence College, where he received his MFA in fiction. Just after graduating from Oberlin, his short story Painting was the inaugural piece for the ‘New Voices’ section of the renowned Esopus magazine. He has written articles for numerous blogs, including booklifenow and tor.com, and been interviewed by several magazines and blogs including Clarkesworld and USA Today.
Lev is originally from lower Manhattan and now lives in even lower Manhattan, right at the edge, with his husband and very small cat.
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