Jack of Hearts (& Other Parts) by Lev A.C. Rosen
Jack of Hearts (& Other Parts) is not what I expected.
High school dramas are exactly what they say on the tin. They’re high school dramas. They’re fluffy, cute, hilarious with a lot of serious elements that may or may not have a moral of the story.
It’s fine if they don’t. I’m not always looking for a story to teach me a lesson. Sometimes it’s nice when they do, but if I constantly wanted that from a book, I’d just read textbooks all the time.
I requested Jack of Hearts (& Other Parts) on Netgalley because of all the things I enjoy about contemporary high school dramas. I love romance, the characters who still haven’t figured out who they want to be yet, the stories about finding yourself and navigating the world you don’t quite understand yet (and maybe never will). But Jack of Hearts surprised me in a lot of ways and was actually both a lesson and a fun read.
Jack is an out gay teenage boy attending a private school in Manhattan. He’s flirtatious with an active sex life. Everyone talks about it. When his friend suggests he take up a sex advice column, he thinks well, everyone’s already talking about it, might as well.
Already, there’s so much to unpack here.
Gay fetishization is such a prominent thing on the internet. Sometimes it’s hard to spot. Some might say a lot of fan fic is a product of gay fetishization. But then others (me included) may say queer fanfic is the result of queer viewers/readers not seeing themselves represented in the canon. Fanfic is the least of our problems, but it’s interesting how gay fetishization has wormed it’s way into fandom and sometimes dominates entire spaces.
Jack of Hearts is a self aware version of that. You have your gay character, and instead of the reader becoming obsessed with his sex life, his school is. If people can fetishize fictional gay people, and famous gay (and straight but thinking they’re gay) people, would they end up doing the same to their peers?
It’s an interesting topic to read about, but not one that many people talk about. There’s straight allyship, but then there’s making people’s sexuality a fetish, and I rarely see it shown within LGBTQ+ novels. Maybe because a lot of LGBTQ+ novels are written by straight people? *sips tea*
I think Jack of Hearts is a very poignant and unapologetic novel about sex and the LGBTQ+ community. It’s that PSHE/Sex Ed lesson you should have got growing up. It’s a frank discussion about the (literal) ins and out of sex without getting too boring and technical. It’s still a fun story, after all!