I. Freaking. Loved. This book. And I plan to use all of my influencer powers to tell my followers (i.e. the 10-20 people who actually care about what I say on Amazon and Goodreads) to read this life-changing book and give it the love and attention it deserves. Seriously, not only is this #ownvoices book very sex positive, the hero also has wonderful friends (who are diverse and have a healthy (albeit somewhat turbulent at times) relationship with him), and there's a creepy mystery element to the book that will keep you desperately turning pages until the very end.
Jack is a young gay man attending his high school. He enjoys sex and isn't ready to be in a relationship yet. Which is fine! But that has given him a reputation at his school and the gossips love to talk about him. His friend, Jenna (who is Latinx), is the daughter of a journo and runs her own news blog, and she wants Jack to have his own column where he serves as a sort of "Dear Abby" columnist for people with questions about sex. At first, he's reluctant... but then he starts to really enjoy the platform it gives him not to answer others' questions, but also his own.
But there's a shadow on all this happiness. Jack is receiving creepy notes in his locker from a secret admirer. At first it seems innocent, but it quickly becomes clear that the person sending these notes is not a very nice person at ALL and they quickly shift to threats and blackmail. Jack soon begins to feel trapped, and it's up to him, and his friends, Jenna and Ben, and the sympathetic art teacher, Nance, to help figure out who his stalker is-- especially since the bigoted principal is of no help.
JACK OF HEARTS really reminded me a lot Camryn Garrett's FULL DISCLOSURE, another LGBT+ sex positive YA book that I really, really loved. I said in my review of her book that I learned more from reading it than I ever did about health class and I honestly felt the same about Lev A.C. Rosen's book, too. In Jack's column, he talks about everything from gender identity to "clean up," and I really, really wish I had something like this in high school because this information would have been so useful to know. The question he received from the asexual individual really moved me because I recently came out as ace myself and the analogy of sex to eating spiders (unpleasant but possible) made me laugh, but also nod, because yes, TOTALLY ACCURATE.
I saw a lot of people giving this low ratings because of the sexual content and while I get that people feel uncomfortable about the idea, I think it's really important for kids to see healthy sexual behavior in books that answers the hard or awkward questions that their schools or parents might not. I thought the author did a fantastic job at this, and I loved the positive plus-size rep of his friend Ben (who is Black) and I loved that Jenna was such a feminist and an advocate for Jack. This book also portrays trauma well, and shows the effects of bullying and how it can be facilitated by a school that is unwilling to take the next step (I was in a very similar position as a high school student), and the criticism of women who fetishize gay men was refreshing and totally called for.
So yes, I loved this book and it's now one of my new faves. I would recommend it to ANYONE and even though there is sexual content, it's never so explicit that I felt embarrassed or uncomfortable while reading it (and I'm ace, so, you know, you can trust me *wink*), and I feel like it serves a valuable purpose. I honestly feel like this book should go on a required reading list for teens because of its willingness to tackle the hard questions and portrayal of a teen boy who doesn't exactly play by the rules of what's expected for him but is still a great human with loving friends and an awesome mom as he figures himself out. At the end of the day, what more can you ask for from a YA?
5 out of 5 stars
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