Jack's on Fire
A Modern Queer Fairy Tale
by Owen Lach
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Pub Date 27 Sep 2022 | Archive Date 27 Dec 2022
What if you were a queer teenage musician outed by his vengeful ex-boyfriend and not a fairy tale princess trapped in a castle tower? What if your wicked stepmother was your ordinary, thoughtless, uncaring mother? What if your fairy godmother was your older brother? What if your Prince Charming was captain of the JV soccer team? Maybe you’d be forgiven for not realizing you were living in a sort of fairy tale.
Faced with the impossible choice of staying home to risk being sent away to Father Sullivan’s special school for exceptionally happy boys or moving in with his older brother in California, 16-yr-old Jack Martin leaves behind everything he knows in Minneapolis to go to San Francisco. He finds himself at a new school with new friends and the freedom to be himself. Then sparks fly when Jack meets Damon, his Geometry tutor (and captain of the JV soccer team.) But Jack wonders if Damon feels those sparks, too. And does their budding friendship have a chance to become something more?
Jack’s On Fire is a heartwarming, modern, queer fairy tale about friendship, chosen family, and young, queer love perfect for fans of Heartstopper. Sure, there aren’t any fairies or wands. But what else would you call it when everything starts magically going your way?
"I found the book really sweet. I loved how positive the relationships were and that the focus was on queer joy. The tenderness of these boys and their relationship won my heart."
Ryan Douglass, New York Times bestselling author
"Jack’s on Fire is a charming, triumphant tale of a queer boy’s journey to find acceptance, community, and love."
"Jack’s On Fire is a charming “hang out” novel set in an idealized world. Light on plot but filled with lovely characters you’d like to meet in real life. If you like Jack, you’ll love spending time with this book. In a YA queer romance market filled with variations on a theme, Jack’s On Fire bucks the trend to go warm and lo-fi."
The Queer Review
"I connected with Lach’s interpretation of a fairy tale so much because it showed that coming into yourself as a queer teen can be a wholesome and loving experience. Jack’s adventures in California are so wonderfully happy, loving, and supportive that it made my heart soar as a queer reader, and I would absolutely recommend Jack’s on Fire to anyone looking for a wholesome and magical take on young queer love.”
Pine Reads Review
Average rating from 29 members
A modern fairy tale is the perfect way to describe this book, because it's (prince) charming as hell. There are plenty of things to like about this book, and really only a few minor flaws that might not even be flaws to certain readers.
The characters are wonderful, and the simmering romance is palpable through the entire book. Jack is adorable, Damon is a heartthrob, and everyone lives happily ever after. The book is, maybe surprisingly, low stakes. There is the element of bullying and homophobia, but once Jack moves his life completely turns around and the things he has to deal with pale in comparison.
That may be a deal breaker for some people though, and I can see someone not enjoying this if they need a high amount of angst in the things that they read. I love some good angst, but it was honestly refreshing to just see two dudes just be...happy. They have problems, things go wrong, but they're not devastating and they're not piled upon with darkness. I caught myself thinking "this is entirely unrealistic" about halfway through the book, and then I realized that was the point.
It's a fairy tale. It was in the title.
It's like the happy version of don't open, dead dove inside.
My biggest complaint is that maybe it was slightly too long, I think probably fifty or so pages could have been trimmed out or cut down in some way, but in the end that's not enough to even put a dent in any score I'd give this book.
It's fun, it's cute, and it's delightfully happy. I fully recommend.
Owen Lach’s Jack’s on Fire is a charming, triumphant tale of a queer boy’s journey to find acceptance, community, and love.
I immediately fell in love with Jack Martin, the story’s eponymous main character. Jack’s biting wit and tendency toward hyperawareness, products of his trauma and possible neurodivergence, spoke to me so profoundly that I wondered if Lach had somehow climbed into my head when he crafted this tale. I appreciated that Lach mostly left Jack’s experiences of trauma off the page. Jack is hurt, but the story isn’t about that. It’s about how he recovers to eventually thrive and shine. The blurb’s description of the book as a “modern queer fairytale” is entirely accurate.
Lach thoughtfully depicted Jack’s anxiety and the struggles he faces in coming to terms with his new environment. Then he surrounded Jack with a delightful set of characters, including his loving older brother to his funny, supportive new friends Frankie and Red. But, beyond Jack, Lach saves the most love for Damon (pun intended,) Jack’s seemingly too-good-to-be-true love interest. Damon is such a grounded, down-to-earth character, showcasing an enlightened depiction of modern masculinity and tenderness. The sweetness of Jack and Damon’s relationship dynamic melted my heart more than once. And the will they or won’t they tension in the slow-burn romance is delicious.
By focusing on queer love and joy, Lach has created a wonderfully hopeful story that any questioning or newly-out queer teen will almost certainly want to read.
This book contains light descriptions of racism, homophobia, physical violence, verbal abuse, loss of a parent, and mild, age-appropriate teen sexuality.
Having lived in San Francisco for 12 years, I absolutely adored how the this story's vivid descriptions of the City took me right back to my time there.
As the story began, Jack was being badly bullied in his Minneapolis high school, with his awful, religious mother blaming him for the beatings.
So with things only going to get worse for Jack, when his brother, Isaac, suggested that Jack move to SF mid-semester to live with him, Jack and his (godawful) mother jumped at the idea, which gave Jack a chance to not only heal, but also flourish.
I really enjoyed seeing Jack go from being an outcast at his old school to him finally finding his tribe and being recognized and valued by those around him.
It was also entertaining to witness Damon going from "the hot delivery guy at the pizza joint" to Jack's tutor to them becoming a happy, functional couple, which they both so desperately needed.
The romance was extremely slow burn until the scene on the roof, but I never found myself losing interest, mainly because so much was continually going on around Jack and Damon.
And although this was a YA/NA story, the melodrama was kept (mostly) to a minimum, even if Jack's Teenage Feelings™ and anxiety did make pretty frequent appearances on page. Just not annoyingly so.
What I think helped a lot in that respect was the fact that Jack's brother, Isaac, frequently encouraged Jack to open up about things that might have been bothering him, without ever making any demands that he do so. Isaac was a great brother and support system, making him one of my favorite side-characters in the story.
To avoid getting all spoilery, I'll stop there, but if you're looking for an entertaining, steam-free, YA/NA story with the beginnings of an HEA, lots of representation, and sensitivity editing GALORE (sometimes it felt like a *lot* of egg shell-walking, TBH), I'd definitely recommend this book.
Jack’s on Fire centers on sixteen-year-old Jack Martin (pronounced “mar-teen”), a young musician who ends up being outed by his vengeful ex, resulting in extreme homophobic bullying and abuse at his high school. It doesn’t help that his mother — a bigoted and religious zealot — is threatening to send Jack to a “correction camp.”
Thankfully, Jack’s older brother, who lives in San Francisco, offers to take Jack in, and suddenly Jack finds himself in a new environment where he’s free to be himself and doesn’t have to constantly look over his shoulder. What follows is a delightful story as Jack finds himself falling for Damon, his heartthrob math tutor. The question is: Does Damon feel the same, or is he simply being friendly?
This ended up being such a sweet and endearing queer young adult romance that utterly warmed my heart. The narrative is lighthearted, including an ensemble cast of delightful characters who end up being an essential support group for Jack, including his loving older brother, who supports Jack every step of the way. The souls of the supporting characters beam through like a bright light that zinged straight to my heart.
I loved watching Jack’s journey as he moves from an abusive environment to a free and open one and how he utterly blossomed at his new school. I enjoyed watching Jack as he learned to trust others again after being treated so poorly by everyone in his past.
Now, if you typically go for books with high angst, high tension, and plenty of drama, you might be disappointed with Jack’s on Fire. Though there is light angst throughout and certainly some difficulties to overcome, most of the drama is internal, leading to a sweet, gentle slow-burn of a story rather than a high-stakes one. I personally thought it was refreshing and had just enough angst to make me happy without shattering my heart into a million pieces — it’s the perfect story if you’re looking for a sweet and tender romance.
I felt that the author Owen Lach really nails the teenage soul in this story—the self-awareness, the confusion, the challenges, the raging emotions, and the longing. In this way, Jack’s on Fire is a love letter to anyone who has felt uncomfortable in their own skin and wondered where exactly they belonged in the world. This quirky, heartwarming queer romance will make you believe in love again
All in all, I loved this big-hearted novel and look forward to reading more by this author.
A huge thank you to Netgalley for providing a review copy of this book.
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