Monday, April 13, 2015

The Truth About Jack by Jody Gehrman - Review

Dakota McCloud has just been accepted into a prestigious art school. Soon she'll leave behind the artists' colony where she grew up―hippie dad, tofu since birth, yurt―and join her boyfriend and best friend on the East Coast. It was the plan…until Dakota finds out her boyfriend and best friend hooked up behind her back. 

Hurt and viciously betrayed, Dakota pours out her heart on a piece of paper, places it in a bottle, and hurls it into the ocean. But it doesn't quite go where she expects…

Jack Sauvage finds the bottle washed up on the shore and responds to Dakota's letter. Except what if his straight-laced life doesn’t jive with the free-spirited girl he’s only seen from afar? As Jack creates a persona he believes she’ll love, they slowly fall for each other with each new letter. Now Jack is trying to find a way to make this delicate, on-paper romance happen in real life…without revealing his deception.

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I'll be honest, finishing this book was a challenge. Here are some reasons why: 

The characters seem too eccentric and immature for Gehrman's often beautiful prose. I wanted more depth from both the characters, though I related much more to Jack than to Dakota. The story was slow to begin, and when the hitting blow came (spoiler: the best friend and boyfriend at college together kind of betrayal), it didn't affect me very much - maybe because I didn't really know or see Dakota and Cody's relationship or because I didn't believe it was that special or both. After that, I didn't really know what Dakota was looking for - she is hurt and angry but also so incredibly dramatic (as are most people in this story) - she hates boys and doesn't want to go to art school (even though it seems like art is the main love and constant in her life) and then decides she wants to go to Barcelona, tied with memories of her absent mom. I just wish that all these details had been related to us earlier and interwoven, and in a way other than long moments of internalization and retrospection, which felt tiresome and slow in the present tense. I liked Jack's character a lot more, his voice sounding more natural and genuine. Although I didn't really buy into his extravagant and strange lifestyle (his mom is nuts), I found his character much more believable.

Jack and Dakota's relationship and love didn't seem real to me. The letters seemed stilted to me somehow and I didn't really know why or how they really worked to relieve Dakota's turbulent feelings or what about them exactly made Jack so obsessed and attracted to her. Jack falls into lust at first sight with Dakota and until the last quarter of the book, I don't understand why he fell so hard. So much of his attraction is physical and surface-level - not that he likes her only for her looks but they he just notices how quirky and funny she is all the time, rather than really getting to know her. Even the letters that are supposed to be these messages of fate don't sound authentic or like they are really learning about one another (maybe because Jack is trying to incredibly hard to be someone he's not). Jack and Dakota don't even really hang out until the last few chapters, where I finally got hints of their interest in one another and actually enjoyed seeing their growing relationship but by then it becomes rushed and then BOOM there's a happy ending. Maybe a good summer read if you are desperate for a book with a happy ending for the beach but maybe not a great fit for those hardcore romantic readers.

There are moments in The Truth About Jack that are beautiful. Gehrman hints at the end of how much Jack and Dakota have helped one another and she uses wonderful imagery and lyrical prose to make some beautiful sentences.  Sometimes this came out in weird moments, though, and made the voices inconsistent and distracted from the development of the characters. I wish I could read some of her writing without the weight of trying to handle this plot, because overall, I enjoyed the writing. 
I received a copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 
Find out more about Jody and her works here:

Jody is the author of nine published novels, one novella, and numerous scripts for the stage and screen. She grew up in Northern California. Babe in Boyland, published by Penguin's Dial books, was optioned by Disney. Her plays have been produced in Ashland, New York, San Francisco and L.A. She and her partner David Wolf won the New Generation Playwrights Award for their one-act, Jake Savage, Jungle P.I. She's a graduate of UC Santa Cruz, Western Washington University, and University of Southern California. She's currently a professor of English and Communications at Mendocino College.

Happy Reading!


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