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Virginia Kress

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If Jack

If Jack's in Love
Stephen Wetta
Penguin
Publish date: 2011-09-29
$25.95
Hardcover
Review date: 05/31/2012

Synopsis:

It's 1967. Jack Witcher is a twelve-year-old boy genius living in a Virginia suburb at an address the entire neighborhood avoids. Jack's father has lost his job-again-and he's starting fights with other fathers. Jack's mother, sweet but painfully ugly, works as a cashier at a local market. Jack's older brother is a long-haired, pot-smoking hippie.

If all of that isn't bad enough, Jack's brother suddenly becomes the main suspect in the disappearance of the town's golden boy. And to make matters even worse, Jack is in love with the missing boy's sister, Myra. Mr. Gladstein, the town jeweler and solitary Jew, is Jack's only friend; together, they scheme to win Jack Myra's love. But to do that, Jack must overcome the prejudices, both the town's and his own, about himself and his family.

Review:

First, I would like to say I thoroughly enjoyed this book and, while its author may have had a less than brilliant career up to this point, Wetta has managed to create a fabulous coming of age story reminiscent of the works of Lesley Kagan. The story is told from the perspective of a 12 year old boy, it is summer 1967 - a time of innocence when kids played outside, roamed freely and safely….or so we thought.

Jack Whicher is a smart boy who just happens to live at the wrong address. His family has been labeled the white trash of the neighborhood and a bit justifiably so. Thanks to Jack’s unemployed, soap opera watching father, the Whicher’s hard scrabble, weedy side yard just seems to keep accumulating other people’s crap, from broken toilets to used car parts to …you get the picture. Jack’s older brother is a long haired, pot smoking, lady’s man with serious anger management issues. Finally there is Jack’s homely mother who spends countless hours working at the Ben Franklin and the rest of her hours cooking and cleaning for her no account family [except for Jack, the odd man out].

Poor Jack. He of course falls in love with the daughter of one of the town’s most prominent families and readily takes advice on love from Mr. Gladstein, a jeweler and the town’s only Jew. With a powerful, magical jewel obtained from none other than Jack’s new friend and confidant, he sets out to get the girl of his dreams. All seems to be going Jack’s way until the girl’s older brother and town golden boy goes missing. Due to reoccurring problems between the missing boy and Jack’s brother, Jack’s brother becomes a suspect. This brings into question loyalties and the real power social status has on one’s behavior and choices.

While this author has had trouble with drugs, trouble with finances and even done some jail time for tax evasion, Wetta’s first novel has earned high praise from Lee Martin, author of The Bright Forever and Winston Groom, author of Forest Gump. I loved this story about life on the wrong side of the tracks.

 

   
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