Our guest blogger today is Dr. Rob Bittner. Rob (he/him) is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the iSchool of the University of British Columbia, working with LGBTQ books for youth and children.
Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts) by L.C. Rosen
Little, Brown, October 2018
Reviewed from ARC
Plot Summary: Jack is a very sexual young man. He’s certainly not afraid to “get it on” and try new things. But when school gossip about his sex life starts to get out of hand, Jack’s friend Jenna suggests he try to use his experiences to educate his classmates through a new sex advice column in the school newspaper. Though a bit hesitant at first, Jack eventually embraces the opportunity, and in the process manages to catch the attention of a secret admirer and get the administration after him for disrupting the status quo.
Queer Rep: The protagonist of Jack of Hearts is unapologetically queer. He’s out and proud at home, at school, and within the community at large. The advice column that Jack writes is also very much explicit in its attention to queer history, realities of queer sex, and the need to break down stereotypes within the queer community. At the very basic level, this novel fulfills the committee’s goal of honoring books that relate to the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender experience.
At a much deeper level, Rosen’s book goes beyond a goal of educating readers about queer sexual experiences to examine a number of other timely social issues relating to queer existence in a heteronormative world. Jack’s column looks to dismantle taboos around queerness and sex while also examining the fetishization of gay men by women in pop culture. Jack’s daily experiences at school also lay out the groundwork for exploring sexual double standards between guys and girls and how often any expression of non-normative masculinity leads others to claim that queerness is being rubbed in their faces.
It’s a powerful and necessary book at this point in time when progressive and queer-friendly sex education is being undermined continually, and even while it swerves close to didactic at times, the format of the book—a typical first-person narration interspersed with letters and the advice column—allows for educational components to work without feeling preachy.
Final Word: I served on this particular committee back in 2010-2012 when there was very little available in the world of queer YA, and certainly nothing as explicit and unapologetic as this. Now there is a lot more out there, but I think that this particular book does something unique, and the narrator’s (and author’s) refusal to pull any punches will hopefully (*fingers crossed*) garner this book an Honor.