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Book Review: Jerkbait by Mia Siegert

Publisher’s description

jerkbaitEven though they’re identical, Tristan isn’t close to his twin Robbie at all—until Robbie tries to kill himself. Forced to share a room to prevent Robbie from hurting himself, the brothers begin to feel the weight of each other’s lives on the ice, and off. Tristan starts seeing his twin not as a hockey star whose shadow Tristan can’t escape, but a struggling gay teen terrified about coming out in the professional sports world.

Robbie’s future in the NHL is plagued by anxiety and the mounting pressure from their dad, coach, and scouts, while Tristan desperately fights to create his own future, not as a hockey player but a musical theatre performer. As their season progresses and friends turn out to be enemies, Robbie finds solace in an online stranger known only as “Jimmy2416.” Between keeping Robbie’s secret and saving him from taking his life, Tristan is given the final call: sacrifice his dream for a brother he barely knows, or pursue his own path.

How far is Robbie willing to go—and more importantly, how far is Tristan willing to go to help him?

 

Amanda’s thoughts

I overuse the phrase “rage blackout.” I’m sure I’ve claimed that 2/3 of all things in existence have given me a rage blackout. I’m easily annoyed. BUT. BUT. This book gave me a rage blackout. The parents are AWFUL. The way Robbie’s teammates treat him is AWFUL. And did I mention that the parents are AWFUL? Because they are. But we’ll talk about them later.

 

Tristan has always felt like he’s lived in Robbie’s shadow. Though they both play hockey (and their former hockey player father is their manager), Robbie’s the star, the one who will be drafted and go on to a huge career. But not if it gets out that he’s depressed. That he’s tried to kill himself three times. That he’s gay. At least, according to their monster of a father. All of that is bad press for Robbie, so the obvious thing to do is cover it up, not address any of the very serious issues, and focus on that goal: getting drafted. Sure. Great parenting. Your kid will be fine. You’re doing a good job. 

 

(You can come join me in my rage blackout—it’s kind of satisfying to get so mad.)

 

I could yell for paragraphs about their cruddy parenting and extreme denial, but I won’t. You get the idea already, I’m sure, that they suck. They pull him from the hospital early after attempt number one so he doesn’t miss a hockey game. They cover up the truth with lies, don’t do anything to help Robbie, and basically blame Tristan for what’s going on with Robbie AND make him responsible for watching over him to prevent future issues. Tristan, who quits hockey after some epic homophobic bullying, just wants to focus on his burgeoning theater career. He loves theater, has a knack for singing, dancing, and acting, and wants to grab the opportunities in front of him. But that’s hard to do when you’re supposed to be keeping your depressed wreck of a brother from committing suicide. Things become even more complicated and convoluted when Tristan learns Robbie is gay. Robbie is terrified of what coming out will mean for his life and his career—but not so terrified that he doesn’t out himself in an effort to save Tristan from some bullying. His teammates react just as terribly as you can possibly imagine. And when his parents find out? It’s a nightmare.

 

There’s a lot to talk about with this book. Siegert is tackling big topics: teenage sports careers; being not just a closeted gay teen but a closeted gay teen athlete; sibling/twin relationships; depression and suicide attempts; crappy parents; crappy friendships; homophobia; stigma with mental illness, and so much more. Plus, the book takes a big twist near the end when Robbie gets the brilliant idea that the answer to all of their problems is running away to go stay with this older dude he met online. That never turns out well, does it? And in this case, it REALLY, REALLY goes badly. Though it ends on a hopeful note, this is not a light read at all. It’s pretty much the worst case scenario for all things with the exception of the way Robbie and Tristan grow closer and more supportive of each other. It’s a dark, upsetting, frustrating, painful look at the pressure on teen athletes, at what happens when mental illness is ignored and untreated, and at how horribly scary coming out can be, especially for teens whose parents are hateful and unsupportive. Bleak but powerful. 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781631630668

Publisher: Jolly Fish Press

Publication date: 05/03/2016

Comments

  1. Brandon says:

    I enjoyed your blog. I agree, the parents are quite terrible, and it annoys me that they got away with it so easily at the end, but I do not think the entire matter was in black and white. I mean, you had the relationship with the twins, the relationship with the parents between each other (which seemed not that great), and both relationships with the parents with both twin respectively, all seemed to differ. I do not think the entire picture was given to us, and it would have helped if there was more of a back story between the history of the family. I was hoping it would have been included in the story.

    The ending was optimistic, but there was not much resolution. I was hoping there would be more family resolution and established relationship, the trial would have not had to come into play, how the careers would have worked out when they finished school, so on, but at least it ended on a positive note. It got to me though why it seemed all about Tristan at the end (to me, he did seem pretty self-absorbed, and yes I know he was not recognized not much by everyone else, but still). I know Robbie eventually went to therapy (probably with help from his parents) and was welcomed back on the team, but the mother (to me anyway) mostly seemed concerned about Tristan at the end, she had a son who tried to die three times, and Tristan did mention in the book during the moment where he shared the photo of his girlfriend to his mother that both he and Robbie were hardly given physical contact by their mother. The mother though, I know cared about both her sons, that is how I took it, it was the father who was mostly the worse of the two (the mother, to put it, was the lesser of two evils). I also think Tristan was taking the recognition way too at heart, because I think there have been times that his parents seemed concerned about him, they wanted both their sons to be successful, Tristan mentioned during a fight at the table, he could envision his father strangling him and his mother begging him to stop, and that his father beat him because he thought he could better himself. Not entirely evil, but pretty oblivious in parenting.

    I know you were probably not expecting a response for your blog, but I just wanted to share my take on the story. It is a good story, but it was so depressing, there was humor to say the least, but did the parents have to be so negligent to both their sons, I know there are terrible parents who actually exist, but these parents were unimaginably portrayed negatively, but they were not entirely cruel and not entirely resentful to their sons (I thought anyway). I think that is all my thoughts to share, but thank you for posting your review, it was enjoyable to read.

  2. Jonathan Freeman says:

    I hated this book. And not necessarily for the reasons stated in the blog. I’m fine with a story about terrible, terrible parenting and bad decisions, but they are never properly addressed. The parents never own what they have done. For instance, the homophobic mother is given a pass because her brother died of AIDS. Doesn’t matter, honey, you contributed to your gay son’s suicidal feelings.

    I hate how the straight twin gets to be the white saviour to the poor queer native. I mean, sure, I want a book about a straight brother supporting his queer brother, but it’s the straight bro who gets the romance and gets his dreams, while the gay bro only learns that the world is full of hatred and pseudo-love for his kind.

    I hate how reaching out to the Internet is shown only as a gateway to predation for the gay brother. You know what? Gay kids in abusive, homophobic homes are saved every single day by the contacts they make online. They don’t have access to GSAs or queer youth groups, or gay-positive therapists (either because of where they live or the consequences of being caught) but they do connect with other gay kids online, they do watch coming out videos on YouTube, they do read queer-positive webcomics.

    I’m also not fond of psychic twin deus ex machinas. Other than that, competent writing, blah, blah. In-world plug for book’s sponsor is also cheesy.

  3. Jonathan, to each their own. Yes, this book has faults, but it has redeeming parts. This book did not entirely please me, but I still enjoy it in my collection. I can understand your viewpoints though and you are right.

    Amanda, I did not mean to berate you for your blog, if I did. I agree with your viewpoints as well, but I have a different feeling about the book. Once again, I enjoyed reading your blog.

    Best regards to you both.

  4. Amanda MacGregor Amanda MacGregor says:

    Thank you both for your thoughts! I always enjoy it when a book generates spirited discussion, even if not everyone is agreeing. Jonathan, you bring up an interesting and important point about it being so useful to show how reaching out to someone via the internet can be such an important connection, one that more often than not is safe, supportive, and comforting. Thanks for keeping the discussion here going!

  5. Amanda, that is an important point that I missed. Thank you for pointing that out Jonathan. Wow, it seems that anything people say or do on the internet nowadays, they end up getting bullied, it is sad and a bit scary. Homosexuality is one of those things, in fact, I was watching an episode of the Fosters last night, in which this happens, not too extreme though. In the book, getting back on topic, I was not too entirely pleased with any of the main characters, honestly, but there were some refreshing moments of where the family came together. It is not a bad book, but it is not that great of a book either. Though I still hold a different opinion to you both regarding feelings towards the book, you and Jonathan both bring up great points. Thank you for giving me something actually valuable on the internet to read.

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