I read a lot of queer books because that is my jam and I am queer, and the past couple months have been no exception. Recently, I read JACK OF HEARTS and SAWKILL GIRLS, so I will be talking about both of those briefly today.
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…
Outside of WILDCARD, JACK OF HEARTS was probably my most anticipated book for the second half of 2018. It is so rare to read about sexually active queer teens, so I was very excited for that, as well as the fact that is was basically SIMON VS. meets PRETTY LITTLE LIARS. The mystery of the book and finding out who Jack’s stalker was was definitely the highlight of this book. The mystery was fun and scary but also realistic and believable, which actually made me not like it at times, but I’d say overall the mystery was the strongest aspect of the book. I thought the twist of who the stalker was was very well done and well plotted, because there were some hints but not so many that I guessed who it was. I realize that I really only like major plot twists if there seems to be a kernel of believability and it seems logical in some way, and I definitely believed the plot twist in this book.
The downside of JACK OF HEARTS was the character development. I felt like all we got to know about Jack was that he likes sex. I didn’t feel we got a lot about him outside of that. I get that the major selling point of the book is that it’s open about sex, but I’m sure Jack has other interests, and he even says that he doesn’t want that to be the only thing people know about him. And honestly, I started skipping the sex advice columns because they were too upsetting or graphic for me. I am not a person who likes reading about graphic sex, and even don’t like watching TV with lots of sex in it. I don’t know why because I’m not prudish or anything in real life, but it’s just not a thing I like a lot of in my media. Still, I think this book did a good job of dealing with the sexual aspects in a healthy way for teens and other readers.
Beware of the woods and the dark, dank deep.
He’ll follow you home, and he won’t let you sleep.
Who are the Sawkill Girls?
Marion: the new girl. Awkward and plain, steady and dependable. Weighed down by tragedy and hungry for love she’s sure she’ll never find.
Zoey: the pariah. Luckless and lonely, hurting but hiding it. Aching with grief and dreaming of vanished girls. Maybe she’s broken—or maybe everyone else is.
Val: the queen bee. Gorgeous and privileged, ruthless and regal. Words like silk and eyes like knives, a heart made of secrets and a mouth full of lies.
Their stories come together on the island of Sawkill Rock, where gleaming horses graze in rolling pastures and cold waves crash against black cliffs. Where kids whisper the legend of an insidious monster at parties and around campfires.
Where girls have been disappearing for decades, stolen away by a ravenous evil no one has dared to fight… until now.
I was expecting to like this book a lot even though I was a bit worried it would be too scary for me since even though I used to love horror, I haven’t been that into it lately. Unfortunately, I was largely disappointed by this book. My main issue with it, strangely, was that I was just bored. The writing was pretty good itself, but the rest of the story elements just struck me as slow and dull even though exciting things happened. I think my main issue with the plot was the pacing. We know who the killer is and know what the deal with that is right away, so that took a major part of the suspense out of it for me. I felt like the rest of the story was too slow as the other characters tried to catch up to what the reader already knew.
I also wasn’t sold on really any of the characters. None of them was particularly complex other than Val, I guess: Zoe was angry about her missing friend, and Marion continued being sad and plain. The most interesting thing to me about the characters was that they were all queer. Two characters have a romance, and Zoe is asexual and has a romance. I liked that there wasn’t a clear label on Marion or Val’s sexuality, but that there was for Zoe, since there are so few ace characters in YA. Overall though, I thought their characters were pretty flat.
I was also weirded out and confused by the sentient Rock that had feelings and possibly did things to move the story along?? I’m honestly still not quite sure what the heck happened with the rock. I think it gave them powers to fight the Collector? I don’t really know. But I was not a fan of the Rock parts and started skimming them. Actually, I skimmed most of the last 20% of the book because it was too slow and I was done with it at that point. In general this book was disappointing and not what I was expecting.