Light yet stern, Jack of Hearts explores the queer experience even in supposedly tolerant spaces and the microaggressions that are often ignored or considered harmless. Jack is out and proud, and unashamedly sexually active, something that a lot of people thinks makes it okay to dictate how to live his life; aside from his mom and friends, that is – they are cool with it. When Jack agrees to run a sex advice column in his friend’s news blog, he starts getting ‘love’ notes that escalate from maybe-creepy to full-on threats. As the book progresses, he and his friends try to catch the person who is sending the notes, while he also tries to hold on to himself.
Jack’s life is subject to public gossip, just because he is gay and isn’t ashamed of his casual sex life. His personality is mostly non-confrontational, low-drama (except when it comes to make-up), and he is happy to help out other people who need sex ed. He ignores the microaggressions that he faces, the casual homophobia, and every thing because he feels like he doesn’t have it as bad as it could be. It is actually sad when the low bar of being treated decently feels like asking too much, for him. Along with this, he also doesn’t believe any help will come without people blaming him for inciting it, so the investigation stays on the down low for most of the book. His friends (one of whom is a Latina, and the other a gay fat black boy), however, are very supportive and try to help him with the best of their abilities, but when they too are in danger of being targeted, he contemplates giving the stalker what they want.
The plot discusses homophobia that goes unnoticed, the fetishization of queer people that is normalized in ‘tolerant’ spaces and claimed as ‘allyship’, the way straight culture tries to define queer culture and bend it to fit its ideas, victim-blaming, consent, awkward questions about sex, asexuality, BDSM, and many other things. It is filled with sex positivity but also acknowledges ace-spec individuals. The mystery may not be the best part of the book, because it was solved by coincidence, IMO, but otherwise it is a brilliant, unapologetic book about being queer, and how you don’t need to change yourself to fit anybody’s ideal of how you should be queer, whether it comes from a straight person or a queer person.