Hello, everyone! Today I’m reviewing Jack’s Ever After by Owen Lach, the sequel to last year’s sickeningly sweet YA romance Jack’s On Fire. I enjoyed the first book, and its focus on queer joy and acceptance. So, I’ve been looking forward to picking this one up, too. It is actually released today. Happy book birthday, Owen!! 🎉🥳
Return to Jack and Damon’s queer love story in the poignant sequel, Jack’s Ever After.
Jack Martin’s life feels like a dream come true. He’s surrounded by supportive friends, his music is thriving, and he’s head over heels for the boy of his dreams. Jack’s fairy tale seems complete. But as he enters his eleventh-grade year at Nolan High School, Jack soon learns that every fairy tale has its villains. In this gripping continuation of the bestselling modern, queer fairy tale Jack’s on Fire, Jack discovers that not all endings are as happy as they seem.
Join Jack as he navigates the many twists and turns of high school, friendship, and love. With its compelling exploration of chosen family and the complexities of young queer love, Jack’s Ever After will captivate you until the very last page. Discover what lies beyond the happily ever after in this stirring queer tale that will tug at your heartstrings and leave you yearning for more.
***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 sequel had everything I adored about the first book, including compelling, age-appropriate characterizations, a core focus on queer joy and resilience, sickeningly sweet high school romance, and one of my favorite sibling relationships I’ve read. The teen angst in this book was also so much more intense than the first book, which will be great for those who wanted a little more drama. lol. Lach’s writing was as good as ever, and I truly love the way he writes character interactions.
I continued to love the characters and relationships in this book. They all grew in different ways, and I appreciated the depth this story added to them. Jack continued learning how to stand up for himself, to rely on the people who love him, and to figure out who he wants to be in his music and his life. He was whiny and self-absorbed quite a bit, like a typical teenager, and I didn’t always like or agree with him. However, I did think his characterization was consistent, and his growth and arc made sense given his situation. Damon was still the best boyfriend ever, but he also learned the hard way that he cannot do all the things because taking care of himself is important too. Both of these boys struggled with figuring out how to make their life goals and dreams a reality, and I loved how they relied on and supported each other through the volatile ups and downs of adolescence. Also, their birthday date was seriously one of the cutest things I’ve ever read.
The boys’ relationship with Jack’s brother, Isaac, was once again a highlight of the book for me. The brothers had such an open, honest relationship, and I loved seeing how they leaned on each other to make their unusual dynamic work. It allowed for so many frank conversations to play out in this book about all sorts of topics, including sex. They were written in an informative, positive way but still held true to each character’s voice, which made them fun to read. I wish the sex talk I received as a teen was as smooth as Isaac’s. lol. Isaac was also a complex character in his own right in this story, and I appreciated seeing his relationship with his fiancee mature and hold strong despite some rocky circumstances.
Now onto the stuff that didn’t work as well for me… Mostly it was the story. The plot felt all over the place. It seemed like everything went wrong for Jack. He went from getting everything he ever wanted in the first book to having problems advancing from every direction. It ultimately made it feel like there was a lack of direction for the story and led to so many loose plot threads. I would have loved an angsty story about Jack navigating the increasing complexities of his new relationship while trying to work out how to balance school and making his music career dreams a reality. That would have been plenty of conflict for the story, and I think it would have left room for an even deeper exploration of the characters’ psyches and arcs. Instead it was just a mashup of all sorts of horrible stuff happening to Jack and his loved ones, and it got to the point where it felt like watching a puppy get kicked over and over for no reason. Don’t even get me started on the insanity of the third act relationship break, either. It made absolutely no sense whatsoever that Damon would be better off without one of his primary supports during such a stressful time. In general, there was way too much going on, and it really needed to be reigned in a bit because the sheer number of problems cheapened their individual impact a bit.
I promise I only have a couple other things to say. 🙂 I loved all of the support Jack and Damon had from their friends and classmates. Amidst all of the horrible stuff that happened to Jack, the way everyone had his back was a ray of hope. It once again emphasized how important acceptance, not just tolerance, is to the mental health and safety of marginalized individuals. If he’d continued to feel alone in his struggles, I’m sure the story would have had a very different outcome. Finally, I wish even a fraction of the characterization given to the main characters had also been provided to the antagonists. The “villains” in this book were truly cartoonish and stereotypical, and it had me rolling my eyes a few times.
Overall, this was a good follow-up to Jack’s On Fire that built upon the themes of that first book. The characters and relationships continued to develop and grow in interesting ways. I just wish the story had been a bit more streamlined with stronger antagonists. Therefore, I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars.