Shhh, just excuse the terrible pun while I say this book had an incredible amount of heart.
It’s a love letter to being a queer teen (by an #ownvoices author too) and it’s a call out micro-aggressions and it’s an encouragement to kids navigating sex and friendships and high school and stereotypes and the true trauma that are origami paper cuts.
(Look not that it’s pertinent to the review, but I do origami and use a hot glue gun for some of my crafts and the amount of cuts and burns I have…dude. If you can order coordination off eBay, I would.
Thank you to Penguin Random House Australia for the review-copy! This is out February 19, 2019!
➸ it’s also like a total hug to queer teens everywhere
You can tell how passionately the author feels about it and wants to boost and protect queer kids. The love in this novel is immense. Jack does a heck of a lot of call outs to micro-aggressions towards the lgbtqia+ community in his columns, including addressing straight people fetishing m/m sex and smacking down slut-shaming culture. And it wasn’t preachy? Jack was so heartfelt and loving the whole time…he’s just such a good egg.
➸ so yeah there is a lot of sex in this book
Jack ends up running a sex-advice column on his best friend’s blog and he’s partially doing it because everyone in his school judges him and gossips about him. He’s a very openly gay teen who loves parties and makeup and sex and he is not ashamed of it. But he’s sick of being gossiped about (like??? yes) and slut shamed. It becomes his way of controlling the gossip and also helping out other queer kids who want advice on relationships and sex. I mean, it’s a lot more sex than I usually read lolol, but the emphasis on safe/consensual sex was really important. And I loved that the book took a moment to talk to the asexuals about how not wanting sex doesn’t mean you’re broken.
➸ the stalker plot line was intense and terrifying !!! like!!! super terrifying
It’s like a reverse-Simon VS the Homo Sapiens Agenda. While Simon had a cute anonymous boyfriend online…Jack has a stalker sending him threatening notes on pink pretty paper. And it’s frikkin’ creepy ok. The unravelling of it all was terrifying and seeing Jack wither into an anxious mess of stress at the threats and online abuse and blackmail was horrible. Like this sparkly, kind teen turns into this muted anxious shadow and my heart b r e a k s. Writing = EXCEPTIONAL.
➸ the friendships were also my favourite thing!!
It’s about sex, not romance, so the friendships in this book are the most important relationships aND I LOVE THEM. We have Jack, our glittery flamboyant sparkle, who takes no crap from anyone and just wants to be likeable and enjoy his life. Then his best friends are Ben, who is intensely good at fashion design and hat making, and he’s black and gay and holding out for his OTP of ever. And Jenna, who is badass and an amateur reporter and made of sharp corners, who lets nothing and no one mess with her best friends. They are EPIC together. I love them !!! so much.
➸ it discussed so so many important things in a nuanced and vulnerable way
Seriously, amongst the sparkly happy tone, it really went in to talk about:
✧ stereotypes and how Jack knows he fits the “glittery flamboyant” stereotype, but he’s being himself and that’s also ok.
✧ it unpacked how we can sometimes diminish our own pain (“oh yeah I’m being blackmailed horribly but at least…I’m not dead!”) and like positivity is important! It’s good and fulfilling. But don’t discount yourself just because someone has it worse. Also his BFF Jenna wouldn’t let him get away with being apathetic about it. Like just because Jack isn’t being beaten up in hallways doesn’t mean it’s not worth calling out other micro-aggressions he faces.
The only things I wasn’t thrilled about was that (1) it didn’t call out the neglectful parenting from Jack’s mum, and I reeeally didn’t think it was ok. And (2) why the frick are these kids SMOKING. That is CANCER and somebody needs a cigarette slapped out of their hand. And (3) the ending almost felt so easy after all the agony we went through the entire book? But like these are tiny tiny things and probably won’t bother most!
The story is intense and well written and impossible to put down. It managed to be this cute and glittery story about friends and sex and being true to yourself, AS WELL as having this super intense creepy stalker storyline going on in the back that absolutely made my skin crawl. Jack is loveable and amazing and his voice is important.
Jack Rothman is seventeen. A solid student with a talent for art, he likes partying, makeup and boys. Sometimes all at the same time. His active, unashamed sex life makes him a red hot topic for the high school gossip machine, but Jack doesn’t really care too much about what the crowd is saying about him. His mantra is: ‘It could be worse.’
And then it is.
When Jack starts writing a teen sex advice column for his best friend’s website, he begins to receive creepy and threatening love letters. His ‘admirer’ is obsessed with Jack – they know who he’s hanging out with, who he’s sleeping with, who his mum is dating. And while they say they love Jack, they don’t love his lifestyle. They want him to curb his sexuality and personality. And if he won’t, they will force him.
As his stalker starts to ratchet up the pressure, it’s up to Jack and his friends to uncover their identity, before their love becomes genuinely dangerous.
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