Tag Archives: Putnam

If Jack’s in Love by Stephen Wetta

6th February 2012

If Jack's in love, he's no judge of Jill's beauty. - Benjamin Franklin

*Bought at Barnes & Noble after reading the first 20 pages and being unable to put it down.

What it’s like to be Jack Witcher: like running through a field full of land mines.

It’s 1967, and Jack is a smart kid, but he comes from the kind of family where his dad wants to fight the neighbors, his brother is the “bad kid” no one wants his or her daughter dating, and his mother isn’t all that pretty. The Witcher family is the house in every neighborhood where the residents leave broken chairs on the porch and piles of trash on the side of the house, a beat-up car left with its hood up at all times. If that’s not bad enough, Jack Witcher is in love with Myra, whose brother Gaylord is missing and who everyone suspects met trouble in the form of Stan, Jack’s brother.

Jack fits nowhere, not with his family, not with the kids at school. In fact, the only person who really pays attention to Jack is Mr. Gladstein, a Jewish jeweler who is also a bit out of place, and for some reason, Jack divulges his love for Myra to Gladstein, who gives him a trinket to win the heart of his girl. Myra doesn’t seem to be anything special, though she sticks up for him once or twice, but as Jack says, “Myra was everything to me, probably because there wasn’t much else.”

When I first opened this book, I was waiting for my Nook upgrade at Barnes & Noble, so of course, I was picking up books every chance I got [Hm. I wonder if this was their ulterior motive]. If Jack’s in Love  was on one of the tables, and I flipped to the first page, and then (as there was some trouble with my Nook), kept flipping until my low back began to hurt and I desperately began missing the nice armchairs that have gone in lieu of some crazy toy area. By the time my Nook was ready, I was hooked.

This is no typical coming-of-age novel. Jack is in a truly precarious position, not only in terms of age, but also because of the family dynamics. Witchers ain’t Snitchers, his dad and brother menacingly warn him again and again, and Jack is party to too much knowledge. What do you do when you’re 13, your dad is planning to commit a crime and your brother already has? Witchers ain’t snitchers. Is loyalty worth more than right? There are moments when Jack is genuinely afraid his father or brother may try to kill him because they know Jack’s just not like them. He is frightened of and for his own family, an alcoholic, violent father, a pot-smoking, sadistic brother, and a mother who has checked out.

If Jack’s in Love is a glimpse into that rundown house, that family who yells at one another and can’t control their kids, and it’s pretty petrifying. Now imagine being one of those kids.

Jack – and I – were simply waiting for the moment when one of those land mines would explode.

Other reviews:

The Literate Housewife

largehearted boy

The Apothecary by Maile Meloy

29th September 2011

*I received a signed copy of this book from the author at BEA. She inscribed it “For Jennifer, the discerning girl.” 🙂

Transcript: “London. An American girl new to the city meets a boy whose father possesses a powerful book full of ancient spells and magical potions which might just be what they need to save the world.”

With a bit of spywork, a lot of adventure, and a good dose of Cold-War-era history, The Apothecary was just a really fun book. I love the premise: the apothecary has a real potion book that the Soviet Union is trying to get its hands on, and after Benjamin’s father disappears, it’s up to Jane and Benjamin to use the spell book and protect it in order to figure out who the good guys and the bad guys are. Along the way, they meet Pip who helps them outwit the double agent out to get the Pharmacoepia, Benjamin’s father’s book. Pip was actually my favorite character because he brought a bit of grit and a whole lot of humor to the novel.

I’ve waited until closer to its publication date to review it, but my enthusiasm hasn’t diminished. It isn’t a perfect book. There were some unanswered questions, and I think the characterization could have been a bit stronger, but I’m hopeful this is (maybe) the first in a series, and I would definitely pick up a sequel.

Plus, this is an absolutely beautiful book. Illustrated by Ian Schoenherr, I absolutely prize this book above many of the others I got at BEA, even though some of the pages are unfinished.

Run out and grab it, or order it from Indiebound.