Welcome to Imprint Friday and today's featured imprint: Amy Einhorn Books. Stop by each week to be introduced to a must-read title from one of my favorite imprints. I know you'll be adding many of these books to your wish list.
Just released yesterday, Stephen Wetta's debut, If Jack's in Love, transports us to rural Virginia. It's 1967, and twelve-year-old Jack Witcher and America are on the threshold of change.
Here's the publisher's summary:
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.To be honest, I was unsure about sharing the publisher's summary for this week's Imprint Friday. But then I thought about it. Readers of If Jack's in Love are going to pick up on different aspects of the story and have different reactions, making the novel a fabulous book club choice. So what was my hesitation? Mostly, it's the description of Jack's brother, Stan. Although Stan's hair is longer than most in town and he's discovered pot, he is really isn't "a long-haired, pot-smoking hippie." He's a lot of things--most of it bad--but he's generally interested in avoiding the draft, spending time with the leggy girl down the street, and throwing his weight around. It's just a bit too early for small-town kids to be hippies, and he definitely missed the boat for the Summer of Love. Fortunately, despite the summary, Wetta got it right.
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.
Jack is a good boy from a no-good family and has lived under the cloud of being a Witcher all his life. The summer he turns thirteen is pivotal, and not just because he is about start junior high and leave his childhood behind. It's the summer Jack sees his family and his community for what they are and must decide where he wants to stand in relationship to others.
If you remember the 60s (and I'm just a few months younger than Jack), you'll likely key in to the subtle references to the politics and music of the era. You'll also know exactly what Jack means when he says:
Earlier Myra and I met where we always met, in the woods. The woods! There was something daring, even salacious, about the words. Back then, before childhood had grown menaced by television reports, the woods were where kids went to drink and smoke and cop feels. One said "the woods" with a knowing smile. The words could make a thirteen-year-old's heart pump. (1)Younger readers will wonder if some parts of the novel are realistic, but things were different before the Internet, before in-your-face mass-media reporting, and when small-town matters stayed that way. But these are the makings of a great discussion.
Other themes are family loyalty, prejudice (of all sorts), and young love. If I were leading a book club discussion, I would talk about the juxtaposition of the changes in Jack's life and the greater cultural and political changes occurring in American and throughout the world in 1967.
Here are some other opinions
- The starred Publishers Weekly review ends: "At turns unsparing, tender, and disturbing when it comes to rivalry and the nuances of love versus obligation, this is no typical bildungsroman. That Jack emerges from a crucible determined never to look back is unsurprising; it is the path leading him to this conclusion that is intelligently, wonderfully conceived."
- Stacy Alesi (The BookBitch), concludes: "this is Jack's story, and despite all that is going on around him, this is a lovely fairytale, if you will, about a boy who rises up beyond his beginnings. An excellent read, especially for book groups."
- Abby Plesser, writing for BookPage says the novel is "a moving portrait of a specific time, family and town, but also a universal story of growing up and coming to terms with the people—and places—that raise us, told with all the humor, truth and urgency of its teenage hero."
Amy Einhorn Books is a featured imprint on Beth Fish Reads. For more information about the imprint, please read Amy Einhorn's open letter posted here on January 25, 2010, or click the Amy Einhorn tab below my banner photo. To join the Amy Einhorn Books Reading Challenge, click the link.