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review 2020-01-04 21:25
Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts) by L.C. Rosen
Jack of Hearts (and other parts) - Lev A.C. Rosen

Content warning for stalking, victim blaming, homophobia, suicidal thoughts, on-page drug use and drinking, and graphic discussions of sex.

Jack is a gay teen who likes casual sex and isn't interested in being in a committed relationship. Maybe one day - he isn't completely ruling it out - but definitely not right now. While he enjoys having sex, he doesn't enjoy people gossiping about his sex life, and for some reason his sex life is a hot topic among the gossips at school. When his friend Jenna suggests that he write a sex advice column for her personal blog, he reluctantly agrees. Maybe if he works in some true stories about his sex life, the rumors about stuff he's never done will go away. And the posts will be semi-anonymous, written by "Jack of Hearts," so there's no way some future college or employer will google him and see them.

For the most part, the advice column goes surprisingly well, but things take a turn for the worse in his private life. Someone keeps putting notes in his locker. At first they look like love notes, but as time goes on, it becomes increasingly clear that Jack has a stalker.

I got an ARC of this at a conference a while back and only just now got around to reading it. The book came out in October 2018, so that gives you an idea of how long I've had it. It looked good, but I was a little afraid it'd have more sex in it than I wanted to deal with. Now that I've read it, I can say that, yes, the advice columns were extremely explicit and did mention, in graphic detail, some of Jack's past sexual experiences as context for whatever advice he was giving. However, even though Jack has sex multiple times in the story, there were no on-page sex scenes. I appreciated that. The advice columns were one thing, but first person present tense on-page sex scenes, especially in a YA novel, would have felt voyeuristic and gross.

Okay, I'll start with the good. I thought that most of the advice columns were well-done. I could imagine the topics and explicitness crossing lines for some folks - I, personally, thought that the last one about roleplay and BDSM would have been more appropriate in a book aimed at adults than teens - but for the most part I liked the way the topics were handled, with an emphasis on communication and consent. There was even one column addressing the fears of a letter writer who was probably asexual, as well as a column that discussed the fetishizing of gay men by straight women.

I liked Jack reasonably well, even if he occasionally made me want to scream in frustration, and I thought his friend Ben was an utter sweetheart. Although most of the prominent characters in this book were very much into sex, usually casual sex, I liked that there was an effort to say "it's okay for teens to not want to have sex, or to want to wait until they meet the right person or feel like it's the right time." And the story's pacing was good and definitely kept me hooked.

However, here's where I get into the things I wasn't as wild about. The stalking plot had several moments that made me incandescently angry. Yes, I understand that there were teens who would not want to tell anyone if they were being stalked, who, like Jack, would want to just wait and see if the problem would go away on its own. And yes, I understand that there are horrible adults out there who'd react like Jack's principal and not do anything particularly helpful. However, it just kept going on and on and becoming more and more awful. The message the book was communicating boiled down to "there's nothing that could possibly be done to make your situation any better, no one will help you, and even the people who try to help you won't be able to accomplish anything." It did resolve in a positive way, but it felt like a stroke of luck on Jack's part, and even then it almost didn't work out. Things got so bad that I was worried the book was going to end in Jack's suicide.

Jack was so frustrating. Every time one of his friends suggested going to someone for help, he trotted out reasons why that wouldn't do any good or just plain said no. No cops, no telling his mom. Considering the principal's reaction when he was first alerted to the problem, I could understand, but as the notes got darker and more threatening, I had a harder time seeing why he wouldn't try again, with a different adult. His mom would have been perfect, but no, he didn't want to worry her. Jack and his mom often felt more like roommates whose paths occasionally crossed than like parent and child. Giving your son space to grow and figure himself out is one thing, but Jack's mom didn't seem to have any rules beyond "don't get blackout drunk and make sure you practice safe sex." And what good was having a "cool" mom, anyway, if Jack still didn't feel comfortable enough to tell her that a stalker was blackmailing him and making his life hell?

The high school experience depicted in this book was more like what I see in movies than what I remember of my own high school life. It seemed like everyone was having huge parties, drinking, smoking pot, and having sex. Yeah, there were mentions of kids who wanted to take it slower, like Ben, and that asexual letter writer, but the bulk of this was just...are there really people out there whose high school experience is like this?

And while I do think it's good that sex positive YA books exist, there were certain things in this one that crossed the line. For example, there were multiple instances where Jack admitted that he'd used Grindr to find partners, that he'd lied about his age, and that at least one or two of his partners were probably adult men who didn't realize that he was still a minor. The problems with this were never addressed. Honestly, the "hooking up with older men via Grindr" stuff could have been cut from the book without hurting anything - Jack had zero problems finding people his own age to hook up with via parties.

Anyway, it was a quick read, but I definitely had issues with it and am not really sure I enjoyed it. I could see the advice columns being helpful to some readers, though.


(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2015-06-18 19:15
I just finished this book this morning.
I'll Give You the Sun - Jandy Nelson

I have a lot of good things to say, but I'll start off with the bad things because that's what's fresh in my mind and that's the type of person I am.

This book could have possibly gotten a 4 1/2 star rating had Oscar just fucked off out of this book.  I really hated the Jude/Oscar romance because right from the beginning it seemed so forced.  She was this closed off person, and I thought that this would be one of those stories where he chisels her out of her shell.  That's only partially true.  A lot of her character development happens away from him, and to be honest I thought that those were the best parts of her story.

It was instalove.  They were "meant to be" and they were... whatever the hell they called soul mates in this book.  All of the lovey dovey stuff was too much, especially since all of that happened maybe weeks after they met and just after he made out with that girl.  Who even knows what else he would have done with her had Jude not walked in?

It's just.

I do not like these gorgeous charming characters who do self destructive things, but look at how saaaad he is about the problems that he brought onto himself.  And he happened to be at the right place at the right time so that he could magically redeem himself.

I really hated the relationship and how the author went out of her way to make it seem like they were meant to be with the picture and the "prophesy" from both of their moms, and I just would have like either no romance, or for her to have a romance with someone else at a more natural pace.

Which brings me to something that I loved about the book:  Noah/Brian.  I will ship that relationship in hell.  I felt like Jandy Nelson did a wonderful job at developing their friendship and showing some hints that Brian might feel the same way about Noah.  She wrote the little things really well, like when they were looking threw the telescope together and Noah's back was touching Brian's chest.  That scene alone affected me way more than talk of prophesies and soul mates.

Which brings me to the other thing that I didn't like.  There's so much about Jude at the end and that makes sense since they were told through her perspective, but I really did not appreciate reading on and on and on about how perfect she and Oscar were together (I give that relationship a week) and then I get like three sentences about how Noah and Brian's relationship turns out.

Sorry, as I said, I really enjoyed this book as a whole, but I did not like the last 20% of it.  There was confession after confession after revelation after revelation and it put a bit of a bad taste in my mouth.  I liked the rest of the book, but unfortunately right now the good parts of the book aren't as fresh in my mind right now.

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review 2014-03-18 07:19
"The Spectacular Now" creates something that lingers
The Spectacular Now - Tim Tharp

Like many, I found The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp cross my radar when "The Spectacular Now" movie began buzzing as a YA adaptation that gained critical acclaim. And, in a fit of impatience, I read the book and watched the movie in somewhat simultaneous order within the same day of each other.


As a disclaimer, let me say both are good. Both do have an adherence to the spirit of what the story is about but they are drastically different in how you consume them and, I feel, lead you to different philosophies in how it plays out. The book is Sutter Keely's mind, it is locked into his limitations and bolstered by his narrative, which plays consistently throughout the novel. The movie is Sutter Keely with a slight bias to his POV, but by the third act it clearly wants to drive a sledgehammer in that his views aren't reliable or accurate.


And this is why I would not recommend The Spectacular Now without reservation. Because Tharp walks a narrow and hard to navigate line in making a protagonist that is equal parts likeable and dislikeable. Sutter's narration is a strong and unique voice that has a way of making you sympathize with him because he is an overall well-intentioned kid. But he's also a self-centered alcoholic with no concept of consequences whose worldview warps the people who love him. Mostly it makes you frustrated with him, because Tharp gets you to care...even as he points the story to the inextricable ending that isn't the happy one the movie promises.


This novel lives and dies by how the reader reacts to Sutter Keely. I am in the firm belief that Tharp fully succeeds in creating a balance between Sutter's unreliable nature and the truth of the situation, but fully understand how other readers could get frustrated by his lackadaisical and oftentimes condescending views. He is oftentimes an unsympathetic self-centered dumbass. His relationship with Aimee is not a romantic beautiful thing, it's an awkward stumbling that is at times incredibly selfish and other times shows glimmers of true affection. I think the best way Tharp shows the dynamic is comparing it to Cassidy, Sutter's ex and probably the best character in the whole book in terms of being a complicated person who sometimes manages to portray her multiple dimensions through Sutter's boneheaded point of view. It's careful and there are layers to the story that suggest a particular attentiveness to the craft even as you're swept along in the always present thereness of Sutter's narration. Whether you're carried along through pure enjoyment or a growing sense of concern...


The biggest success of The Spectacular Now is that it is a book that needs to be digested to appreciate. Sure, we can read it and enjoy it as a coming of age but it is more than that, it hints to a dark past and a painfully uncertain future as bookends for this spectacular now. It is the flipside to "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" whose moment of affirmation here:



...is later met with the very sobering reality that life is more than those moments. That infinity and momentariness are conceptually at odds. And Sutter may be the real successor to Charlie in terms of a YA coming of age novel. Even if Sutter might not recognize himself as anything else beyond his moments of now and the moment of adulthood is quite achieved, Tharp gives the reader a true journey even if the ending isn't the one Hollywood provided.


But life is complicated anyway. And, besides Aimee gave a pretty good moral in her own words...



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review 2013-08-12 20:17
[Rezension] "Verlieb dich nie in einen Vargas" von Sarah Ockler
Verlieb dich nie in einen Vargas - Sarah Ockler


Titel: Verlieb dich nie in einen Vargas
Reihe: nein
Autorin: Sarah Ockler
Genre: Jugendbuch, Contemporary Young Adult
Verlag: cbt (26. August 2013)
ISBN: 978-3570162729
Seiten: 416
Vom Hersteller empfohlenes Alter: Ab 13 Jahren
Auf "Verlieb dich nie in einen Vargas" habe ich mich schon ganz lange gefreut. Das Cover ist überaus sommerlich und der Inhalt tönt auch wie die perfekte Lektüre zu dieser Jahreszeit.
Wenn dein Glück den falschen Namen trägt
Jude Hernandez hat eine Menge von ihren Schwestern gelernt, aber die wichtigste Regel lautet: Verlieb dich nie in einen Vargas! Sogar einen Blutseid hat sie darauf geschworen. Jetzt lebt Jude als einzige der Schwestern noch bei ihren Eltern, es ist der letzte Sommer vor dem College. Um ihren kranken Vater aufzuheitern, hat sie einen jungen Mechaniker angeheuert, der das Vintage-Motorrad ihres Vaters reparieren soll. Kann sie etwas dafür, wenn er gut aussieht? Und unerwartet süß ist? Und Emilio Vargas heißt? Schließlich handelt es sich um eine reine Geschäftsbeziehung und von einer Vargas-Flirtattacke lässt sie sich schon mal gar nicht durcheinander bringen. Aber Judes eiserne Abwehr erhält erste Risse. Wird zum dritten Mal ein Vargas das Herz einer Hernandez brechen?
(Bild- und Textquelle: cbt)

Einstieg ins Buch:
Das Gesetz der Wahrscheinlichkeit sieht vor, dass ein Mädchen mit drei älteren Schwestern wenigstens ein Paar süsse Shorts erben sollte, die ihm tatsächlich passen. Sind wir uns da einig?
Bzzz! Schön, dass Sie mitgemacht haben! Bitte versuchen Sie es erneut.

Wie doch ein Cover und der Einstieg in eine Geschichte täuschen können ... ein sommerlich leichtes Titelbild und vor allem zu Beginn eine sehr jugendliche, zum Teil flapsige Sprache lassen einen denken, dass man es mit einer seichten 0815 Liebesgeschichte zu tun bekommt. Doch dem ist nicht so! Sarah Ockler hat mich mit ihrem neusten Werk sehr positiv überrascht. Wer hätte auch in dieser hellen, fröhlichen Hülle eine so ernste, tiefgründige Thematik erwartet? In "Verlieb dich nie in einen Vargas" steckt viel mehr als 'nur' eine Liebesgeschichte: Familiendrama, Selbstfindung, Freundschaft, Umgang mit schwerer Krankheit, Vertrauen, Angst und Verlust.

Familientragödien neigten irgendwie dazu, alles in winzige Stücke zu sprengen und gleichzeitig den Klebstoff zu liefern, der die Dinge wieder kittete.
Das Problem war nur, dass niemand wusste, wie lange der Klebstoff halten würde.    (Seite 207)

Die Geschichte wird aus der Sicht von Jude erzählt. Zu Beginn war sie mir etwas zu taff, kam mir etwas zu oberflächlich vor, denn sie versteckte sich oft hinter einer Fassade. Doch je länger je mehr bewunderte ich sie. Es sind ihre letzten Sommerferien vor dem College und ihre Freunde finden, dass sie ihre letzten richtigen Ferien geniessen muss. Ihre drei Schwestern sind schon seit längerem ausgezogen und ihre Mutter muss sehr viel arbeiten. Jude jedoch verbringt ihre ganze Zeit mit ihrem kranken Vater. Mehr als einmal dachte ich mir, dass diese Bürde, die sie da auf sich genommen hat, zu gross für einen Teenager ist, doch sie liebt ihren Vater aus ganzem Herzen und schafft Unglaubliches. Als sie realisiert, dass seine Augen beim Thema Motorrad immer zu glänzen beginnen, möchte sie seine alte Harley wieder zum Laufen bringen. Aus finanziellen Gründen engagieren sie einen ungelernten Mechaniker, auch wenn Jude sofort merkt, dass es ein Vargas ist ...

Und auf den ersten Blick scheint Emilio ein echter Vargas, wie er im Buch (der gebrochenen Herzen) steht zu sein: attraktiv, arrogant, selbstverliebt. Nicht nur Jude sondern auch mir war er zu Beginn zu sehr von sich selbst überzeugt. Mit seinen Kommentaren liess er mich jedoch ein ums andere Mal auf den Backzähnen grinsen. Doch wie im ganzen Buch steckt auch in Emilio mehr - viel mehr als Stoppeln, Grübchen und Narbe. Es ist erstaunlich, wie er mit el jefe (Judes Vater) umgeht und er ist es auch, der Jude versucht wachzurütteln und sie unterstützt an sich selber zu glauben und sich zu behaupten.

Manchmal war ein Seufzer alles, was einem an Kampfgeist geblieben war.     (Seite 333)

Sarah Ocklers Schreibstil hat ein sehr weites Spektrum: von jugendlicher Umgangssprache, über witzige Wortgefechte bis hin zu poetischen Stellen findet man alles in diesem Buch. Sie verwebt gekonnt eine wunderschöne Liebesgeschichte mit einem traurigen Familienschicksal und baut dabei eine so dichte, Atmosphäre auf, dass ich die Geschichte förmlich inhaliert habe. Ich bin zwar nicht nahe am Wasser gebaut, doch bei diesem Buch blieben auch meine Augen nicht trocken. Die Geschichte um Jude Hernandez und Emilio Varges hat mich gepackt, schmunzeln lassen, traurig und nachdenklich gestimmt, bedrückt, schlussendlich aber zufrieden zurück gelassen. Vergessen ist sie jedoch noch lange nicht.

Mit "Verlieb dich nie in einen Vargas" habe ich eine leichte, lockere Liebesgeschichte erwartet. Und was habe ich erhalten? Eine so tiefgründige Geschichte, dass ich zum Teil Pausen einlegen musste, um durchzuatmen, um etwas Distanz zu gewinnen. Sarah Ockler hat sich in mein Herz und tief unter die Haut geschrieben.

Source: www.favolas-lesestoff.ch/2013/08/rezension-verlieb-dich-nie-in-einen.html
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