The Truth About Jack by Jody Gehrman [twitter • website]
Publication Date: April 14, 2015
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Target Audience: Young Adult
Keywords: artist colony, RISD, art school, cheating, message in a bottle
Format Read: ARC from Publisher (Thank you!)
Summary: Dakota’s best friend and boyfriend graduated a year earlier than she did, and while away at close colleges, they begin hooking up. River writes Dakota an email to let her know. An email that Dakota receives shortly after excitedly receiving her acceptance letter to RISD (where she would be close by them).
• • •
In the same day, Dakota finds out she’s been accepted to the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and she receives an apologetic, yet somehow defiant, email from her BFF, River, that explains she and Dakota’s boyfriend began hooking up. Dakota’s not sure how she’ll face them in the fall (they’d both be in very close proximity to her) so she begins tossing around the idea of taking a gap year, getting away to travel and be inspired to create her art, and then returning to begin RISD. (And hopefully have a bit of separation from the BFF/boyfriend drama.)
In the whirlwind of Dakota learning this disappointing news, she bypasses a guy, Jack, who finds her so intriguing and magnetic that he follows her to the beach. (I promise it felt less creepy than it sounds.) At the beach, Dakota scribbles furious notes in her journal and finally decides to toss a message in a bottle into the ocean, hoping someone will write her back. The note never makes it far in the ocean because as Dakota leaves, Jack ambles over to pick up the bottle the waves rejected.
Jack is …sweet and timid and shy. He’s dangerously protective and loyal, but so incredibly uncertain of himself. Used and abused in the past, he’s not sure how to approach Dakota so he begins writing to her as Alejandro Torres from Barcelona — flirt and traveller extraordinaire. He thinks the alias is a great idea until he realizes it’s a trap; he begins to get to know her in real life, too, and has no clear way of revealing what he’s done without Dakota feeling slighted again.
Dakota is an artist, free-spirit, child of an artist colony. She’s easily hurt and very distant. She’s been abandoned in the past by her mother and with River’s betrayal, she’s become very wary and distrusting. She’s shaken and really unsure of what to do with her future.
The Truth About Jack is a dual-POV, but I felt so connected to Jack’s sweet spirit. He’s so structured and disciplined that his crush on Dakota felt like the bit of freedom his life severely lacked. It felt mostly like his story as he tried to unwind the knots he wound with his lies. (I did care about Dakota’s future, too, but I’m a firm believer in not making a spontaneous decision with a hurting heart.) A few details could have been shown a little better — i.e. Jack mentioning that his relationship was nonexistent with his dad — because honestly, sometimes young adult books leave out the parents altogether. I would have appreciated seeing his father let him down so I felt a bit of validation when he explained this to Dakota.
It’s been a while since I’ve smiled so much throughout reading a book. The Truth About Jack is so endearing and it was lovely to see Jack come out of his shell, confide in Joaquin (a Hispanic teenager employed by Jack’s parents who brings authenticity to the handwritten letters) and hopeless-romantic-tutor-turned-chauffeur, Atilla, for help getting the girl.