Jennie's Reviews > If Jack's in Love

If Jack's in Love by Stephen Wetta
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Jun 27, 11

bookshelves: drama, fiction, humor, literary-fiction, new-classic, satire, romance
Recommended for: Fans of Nick Hornby
Read from May 27 to 29, 2011 — I own a copy, read count: 1

I didn't expect to like this as much as I did, honestly. I picked it up because the premise sounded semi-interesting, but I wasn't expecting much. I was had. Wetta's compelling prose hooked me by the end of the first couple of chapters, and by that time, it was a race to the finish two days later.

I give it 5 stars. Wetta's characters are unbelievably raw and real, he breathes life into the nuances of the individuals -- never stereotypes -- of the people populating his insular small town in the midst of all the upheavals of the '60s. Jack Witcher, his twelve year-old protagonist, is extremely well developed. I typically hate books told at the perspective of anyone under the age of 18, because I've found that most authors have a terrible time trying to capture the despair, angst, self-involvement, and confusion of kids on the cusp of puberty. Not so with Wetta's Jack, who is in turn hilariously naive, achingly self-conscious, youthfully reckless, and completely unforgettable. I haven't read such a memorable child in fiction since To Kill a Mockingbird! His family are all developed with the same mastery -- his brutish brother, his complex and troubled father, and his self-restrained, demoralized mother. Likewise, the neighborhood Jack haunts bursts off the page in full color, with all the ideology and politics of the 60s. There's hippies, racism, antisemitism, atheism, John F. Kennedy, poverty, drugs, cigarettes, GTOs, and "white flight", all mulled over through the eyes of 12 year-old Jack.

There's enough sub-plots to keep any reader interested: a robbery, a fight, some mystery, young love, one boy versus the prejudice against his family, and a murder. All of which tie together to form a cohesive whole that is never jumpy, poorly developed, or cliche.

This is really fantastic fiction, and a work of startlingly deep thought on dilemmas that still plague the world, fifty years after the '60s. Highly recommended!
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