Friday, 20 January 2017

#DisabilityDiaries2017 | Review! - Jerkbait by Mia Siegert



Jerkbait title image


flowers flourish








Title: Jerkbait
Jerkbait by Mia Siegert book cover
Author: Mia Siegert

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBTQ+ (M/M,) Magic Realism* (*ish)


Amazon: UK - USA









A few starting notes:

A bunch of people have recommended this; you've got mental health representation and LGBTQ+ representation, so yeah, I was gonna read it!

For a great review from a queer male reviewer, check out Naz @ Read Diverse Books' review, which was the first review I think I read of this book (and is awesome.) 😄

In the interests of balance and all cards on the table, here's a Goodreads review from someone who really didn't like this book, and had some valid points about the representation.

(This is another one of those reviews where, once I started, I couldn't stop. So if you need the loo, now's the time: go and then come back. Go on. I'll wait.)







Premise:

Robbie and Tristan are twins. They might look identical, but they couldn't be more different.

Robbie is a hockey star in the making, and Tristan, well he lives in Robbie's shadow; he'd prefer to be in musical theatre, but that's not acceptable to his parents.

Then Robbie tried to kill himself. And suddenly nothing's the same any more.

Robbie has been hiding that he's gay, Robbie has been hiding that he's depressed.

Somehow Tristan has to get to know the brother he's drifted apart from, before things go too far.





Best bits:

How do I start? This book is awesome.

It's uber-readable, and, in places, utterly heart-breaking.

The development of the relationship between the twins is fantastically written - slowly, but surely, as Tristan starts to understand things - and understand Robbie - a little better.

And the central message that you have to be you? *hugs book*







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It took me a while to get that Tristan wanting to be in musicals is somehow seen as girly or something...?





*Cue explanation*






Sorry if I sound super-naïve guys, but it's really not seen as a feminine thing here.

All of the sporty boys at my school were involved in the musicals. Because if you've got the talent to be cast, and you want to, why not?

I guess there's a reason they call us The Land of Song.

(And suddenly High School Musical makes a lot more sense...)

So, apparently in other places around the world, your sports fans don't sing hymns in the stands?

And that made me realise that there's places in the world where men can't just sing when they want to. Not even in a male voice choir.

And that made me kind of sad... because that means there's a lot of you out there that can't let your hearts sing whenever you want. 💔

So, with my new-found knowledge of hockey apparently being masculine...

(We play lawn hockey here, it's largely a girl's game... we do have one ice hockey team that I know of, which is a men's team.)

...and musicals apparently being feminine, I could appreciate what the author was trying to say.






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But Cee, if you were confused, why is this in the 'best bits' section?

Well my dearest nerdlets, it's because my confusion fit in so snugly with what Siegert was trying to say - stereotypes are arbitrary. And stupid. 

Do whatever the f**k you want (legally, ofc.)




*end of explanation - feel free to burst into song at this point*










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I also really appreciated the portrayal of the stigma of mental health problems - Robbie's parents don't want anyone to know about his depression in case it harms his career.

Robbie can still play hockey well, but he'd be seen as a liability if the teams knew about his problems.

Mental health problems are not spoken about in sport, and still have to be hidden more often than not in everyday life because people will treat you differently.

Additionally, there's the problem of homophobia within sport, which Siegert shows sublimely in all of it's awful casualness.

At no point, though, does Robbie become just a plot point, just a diagnosis, just an orientation - and all I can say to that is: well done!








Not so great bits:

There's a lot of potentially distressing content in this book guys, so be aware that it has the following:
  • multiple suicide attempts (from the first chapter, various methods)
  • depression
  • homophobia
  • homophobic attacks
  • brief transphobic comments
  • racism
  • truly terrible parenting
  • implied past physical child abuse (punching etc.)
  • catfishing
  • sexting
  • self-harm
  • references to HIV/Aids
  • ableism (mental health stigma)
  • kidnap
  • confinement
  • isolation
  • bullying and cyber-bullying (homophobic and ableist)
  • being outed
  • physical abuse/torture
  • trauma/shock
  • rape/sexual assault
  • a sex offender
  • hypothermia

...ok, I think that's all of it.





flourish divider






There's also references to the sexy times and masturbation, and there might be the odd swear word in there, but if you're ok with all the other stuff, it's not going to bother you.

I would personally have preferred it if we centred more on Robbie than Tristan. Tristan's point-of-view (POV) sometimes feels like Robbie is side-lined when he shouldn't be.

That said, I understand the challenges and limitations that would come from Robbie's POV, and totally get why Siegert chose to use Tristan's view instead.

This way, the graphic stuff largely happened off-screen (off-page, whatever) and this book is therefore more likely to find it's way into the hands of the young people who need it most









rainbow fingerprint









But personally... I feel like Robbie's experiences are the important part here, and Tristan's viewpoint sometimes felt alienating from a depression perspective, simply because he doesn't understand.

The main problem I had with this book in terms of the mental health representation - which is largely awesome - was that at one point, in the heat of the moment, Tristan calls Robbie a 'coward.'

And that felt like someone'd slapped me in the face. I think I actually flinched.

In context, I can totally understand why Tristan would say it - he was scared as all hell of losing his brother. But he should have apologised or felt regret or something because... ouch.






hockey stick, puck, and helmet






I should also point out that much of the bad stuff in this book happens to our main gay character, Robbie, including *spoiler alert* [rape, sexual assault and kidnap by an online catfish; attempted suicide; being outed] *end spoilers.*

On a slightly lighter note - what the hell is going on with Tristan's ribs?!

Everyone seems to aim at them - and it's like, there are other places you can injure!?!

Just food for thought.






Verdict:

I had a few niggling issues, true.

Overall though? This book is so important guys.

I recommend it, but cautiously; there's some people and situations where this book might do more harm than good.

But in the right setting, to the right person, it can certainly do more good than harm.












flowers flourish








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8 comments:

  1. I think Tristan and the musical thing really depends on your culture, country and school. In my school, we wouldn't see it as so. But I know in other places it would be. But this one sounds like the brother is really trying to understand, and that makes a lot of sense. I like that the family aspect of this is really coming in to play here.

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    1. Yeah Tristan and Robbie's relationship really develops as it moves on. They have pretty damn awful parents though tbh!

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  2. This sounds really cool! However a lot of guys at my school who are "sporty" still participate in the school musicals, so I don't really think that the trope of "musicals are girly" applies here. Also living in Canada, hockey has no gender, so there's that lol!

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    1. Canada sounds more in line with Wales that way! :)

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  3. Fantastic review!!! I've got this on my Kindle, but I haven't read it yet...will have to get around to it soon! (Again, this is whatthelog, my damn computer is sabotaging me and won't let me use the account.)

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    1. Haha, no worries, you're now mentally logged as Wendy-whatthelog, so I'll cope ;)

      It's an awesome book - some problems, but also so much going for it!

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