Hello, everyone! Today I am reviewing Jack’s on Fire by Owen Lach, which was just published last week. As the cover suggests, it is a cute YA romance. So, if that’s your cup of tea, be sure to check it out!
What if you were a queer teenage musician outed by his vengeful ex-boyfriend and not a fairy tale princess trapped in a castle tower? What if your wicked stepmother was your ordinary, thoughtless, uncaring mother? What if your fairy godmother was your older brother? What if your Prince Charming was captain of the JV soccer team? Maybe you’d be forgiven for not realizing you were living in a sort of fairy tale.
Faced with the impossible choice of staying home to risk being sent away to Father Sullivan’s special school for exceptionally happy boys or moving in with his older brother in California, 16-yr-old Jack Martin leaves behind everything he knows in Minneapolis to go to San Francisco. He finds himself at a new school with new friends and the freedom to be himself. Then sparks fly when Jack meets Damon, his Geometry tutor (and captain of the JV soccer team.) But Jack wonders if Damon feels those sparks, too. And does their budding friendship have a chance to become something more?
Jack’s On Fire is a heartwarming, modern, queer fairy tale about friendship, chosen family, and young, queer love perfect for fans of Heartstopper. Sure, there aren’t any fairies or wands. But what else would you call it when everything starts magically going your way?
***Thank you to Jetspace Studio for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***
This book is exactly what the cover and synopsis suggest: a delightful queer fairy tale focused on found family and the healing power of acceptance. Jack was such a great protagonist, and I appreciated the realistic portrayal of anxiety his character represented. He experienced so much growth, both in managing his anxiety and learning to trust and be open with others. I felt so much joy watching him realize that people could not only accept him but also love him for who he was.
His relationships with others, especially his brother and Damon, were the highlights of the story for me. He had a fun, easygoing relationship with his brother despite the circumstances of the two of them being thrown together, and I just loved the honesty and mutual support they shared. The friendship, and eventual romance, between Jack and Damon was sickeningly sweet and an absolute delight to read. The slow burn friends to lovers romance created a will-they-or-won’t-they tension that was fun, even though it was fairly obvious they’d end up together. This was a fairy tale after all.
On that note, this was largely a low angst story about the queer kid getting everything he had ever wanted after being moved from a hostile environment to a supportive one. There were moments of despair, but the general vibe of the book was very positive and devoted to giving Jack the perfect healing experience. That being said, sometimes I wished things wouldn’t have gone quite so easily for him. What can I say? I love drama. lol. However, I did enjoy the book for the positive vibes, and seeing Jack live the dream so many queer kids have of unconditional love and acceptance was a cathartic experience.
Now I’m going to be a bit picky. There was one character who seemed to exist only to create the conditions needed for the final climax. Their arc felt removed from the rest of the narrative, and I found the eventual outcome obvious despite also feeling a bit blindsided by it because it seemed like it should have been part of another story. Despite this pickiness about a relatively small detail, I loved this book and think it would be perfect for fans of Heartstopper because of its focus on queer joy and an absolutely adorable friends to lovers high school romance. Therefore, I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars!