Aug 17, 2011

Series: JACK by A.M. Homes

The series: Where in Children's Literature are the Gay Parents? continues today with my review of Jack, by A.M. Homes. 

From the first page, Jack exudes teen - Jack is learning to parallel park in an old Volvo. He is not successful, but his dad reassures him that he will get better...with time. From the first few pages, I could tell Jack and his father have an awkward relationship that is loosely held together by love and blood.   

When Jack's father takes him out on a lake in a row boat, Jack knows some news is about to drop and this makes things even more awkward. The problem is his parents are already divorced, so what the hell could top that in a take-your-kid-out-in-a-row-boat-and-break-some-news event? Well, his dad succeeds in raising the level of awkwardness by telling Jack that he is gay. 

Jack's reaction is to run, except the two are in a row boat in the middle of a lake. As soon as the boat hits the dock, Jack takes off and runs away from his father, his life, and himself.

"I stayed in my room all night, trying to figure out how my father could be a queer. I mean, historically, queers are not fathers."

Of course, Jack is not about solely about Jack's father - Jack and his mother have their own issues.

"She was smiling down at me in a fake motherly way that looked like it'd been clipped from the pages of Family Circle."

As Jack's mother tries to force Jack into talking with her about his father, their relationship begins to falter even more. Soon, Jack feels left though he is the only one who sees how devastating his dad's sexual orientation is. Things get worse when Jack's best friend, Max, leaks the story at school and Jack becomes known as the "fagbaby" and is even called a queer himself.

Oddly enough, it's the improving relationship Jack has with his mother's boyfriend and the unwanted attention at school that act as catalysts for opening Jack's mind. It's definitely not all unicorns and rainbows, but the book is filled with insightful, charismatic, and profound dialogues and Jack's self-improving mental monologues.

By the end of the book, Jack has worked hard to reconcile his relationships. While there is still work to be done. Jack has turned himself into an advocate for tolerance and understanding and left me, as the reader, wanting to be the same.

A few more things: a statement on the back of the book compares Jack to The Catcher in the Rye, which is one of my favorite books. I thought the comparison would turn out to be lofty, but instead, I was truly enthralled in A.M. Homes interpretation of a teenage boy. She is an extraordinary writer and gives Jack a unique voice. Also, Jack was published in 1989 and other than a few cultural references that place it in that time, the novel is absolutely relevant for today and feels as fresh as ever.

Lastly, kudos to A.M. Homes for writing a novel about a teenage boy who is going through a transformation and NOT about a boy who has a gay dad.

Thanks for reading! And please check out Kris's thoughts on Between Mom and Jo, by Julie Ann Peters.

Curious about this series? Read the intro post here.


  1. Love this review! It makes me want to go get this book right now. Thanks J!

    My favorite part of your review? It's "not all unicorns and rainbows." LOL. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Excellent review. And surprising that it was published in 1989. I found out that my uncle was gay a few years before that, and it was a big family secret. My grandfather never knew, and I'm not sure what my grandma felt about it, and we were pretty close.

  3. Great review! I was also surprised to learn that it was published over 20 years ago--from the description in your review it feels VERY relevant to today.

    Love your note that it's a book about a boy going through a transformation and NOT about a boy who has a gay dad.

  4. How have I never heard of this book? You are opening doors to me, Jonathon!