By Stephen Wetta
Amy Einhorn Books, $25.95, 358 pages
Jack is twelve years old and already an outcast. The entire neighborhood treats him with disdain and suspicion. Not because of anything Jack’s done or said, but because he’s a Witcher. Mom is known for being ugly; Pop is unemployed and quick to fight; Jack’s older brother, Stan, takes after Pop and isn’t shy about making threats or enforcing them. “Trash” is spray painted on their house. All Jack wants is to win the heart of Myra Joyner, a Herculean task made even more difficult by the fact that Stan is the prime suspect in the disappearance of Myra’s older brother.
“Families live on loyalty more than love, and it wasn’t fear alone that made me keep my mouth shut.”
Author Stephen Wetta has created in If Jack’s in Love a book with characters of depth and takes on the idea of prejudice without becoming didactic. The interactions between Jack and his neighbors, family, and friend (for he really only has one) show a profound understanding of life for a twelve-year-old. And it’s an understanding that gets more complex as the truth about what happened to the Joyner boy becomes clearer. Wetta’s writing is engaging, with a strong voice, relatable protagonist, and ease that belie the fact that this is his first novel.