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Review: JERKBAIT by Mia Siegert

March 20, 2016

This Friday, I received an Advanced Release Copy (ARC) of Mia Siegert’s JERKBAIT, which will be released by Jolly Fish Press on May 3, 2016. I finished it on Saturday morning. This is because JERKBAIT, while extremely dark and violent in many respects, is an incredibly fast read with a compelling story that is hard to put down. It touches on many important subjects, like bullying, LGBT rights and issues, coming-of-age experiences, and family relationships. As I read it, I thought of the wonderful Matthew Quick’s work (SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK, FORGIVE ME, LEONARD PEACOCK).

JERKBAIT is told from the point of view of Tristan, the twin brother of Robbie. Both boys play hockey, but Robbie is the star; and Tristan has lived in his shadow for the boys’ entire lives. The situation is worsened by their parents, whose absolute first (indeed, only) priority is maximizing Robbie’s chances of being drafted to his father’s choice college team.

Tristan’s resentment of Robbie is passive until Robbie overdoses and their parents force the boys to share a room. Believing that the incident is accidental, Tristan resents the new arrangement. He also resents his parents’ insistence that he “watch” Robbie, especially since he finds himself gravitating away from hockey and toward musical theater. He’s a natural, and if his parents hadn’t been so focused on Robbie and Robbie’s hockey career, Tristan might be on track for Broadway. Now, he must make up for wasted time.

Living with Robbie makes Tristan connect with his brother in a way he never has before. He learns that Robbie isn’t the happy, socially adjusted kid he is on the surface – he is dark, brooding, and emotionally isolated from his peers. Meanwhile, Tristan becomes even less enchanted with hockey and storms off the team. Now, he can finally focus on musical theater.

When another athlete accuses Tristan of being gay and attacks him. Robbie fights back and reveals his own secret to the entire cafeteria that holds witness: “Some straight guys like musicals. And some gay guys play hockey.”

Robbie tries to commit suicide again, and the parents react by refusing Robbie help because of the risk of making him appear to be a liability to hockey teams. Instead, they force Tristan to tail Robbie, to give up his lead in the musical to monitor Robbie during hockey practice, and resolutely refuse to acknowledge the real reasons Robbie hurts. This means that the brothers have to deal with the situation together if Robbie has a chance of surviving. This is a haunting, fast-paced story of two brothers caught in a nightmare, and I found myself turning the pages to make sure they got out alive.

By way of criticism, I will say I had trouble reading certain passages. It had nothing to do with the writing or the plotting – it was because the book deals with some bleak issues. It also features some truly heinous people, including a self-centered theater diva who taunts Robbie for his suicide, clueless parents, and an Internet troller.

While I had some issues with these characters – I had particular trouble believing that parents would be that blind or that Tristan’s theater friend would be that heartless  – I suspect that this may be because I didn’t grow up dealing with these kinds of issues or people. The reaction of the characters by and among one another was believable; and the story made me root for Tristan, Robbie, and everything they stand for.

Even better, it caused me to think about what they stand for, and I have no doubt that this book will make many others do the same.

Add JERKBAIT to your Goodreads To Read list by clicking here.

Jerk bait by Mia Siegert

JERKBAIT by Mia Siegert

*I am a middle grade writer, and my own debut, MONSTERVILLE: A LISSA BLACK PRODUCTION, is coming from Sky Pony Press in September of 2016. You can add it on Goodreads by clicking here.

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2 Comments
  1. I will be reading this book as soon as I can get my hand on it!

  2. OK, I actually do have two hands. I will be getting my hands on it. 🙂
    But really, this is the kind of book I wish I read as a teenager.

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