Review: Jerkbait by Mia Siegert

Earlier in this year, author Mia Siegert wrote a guest post during the blog tour of her debut novel, Jerkbait. She talked about the importance of LGBTQ+ representation in YA literature and its ability to educate young readers and prevent bullying and hostility for gay, lesbian, and transgender youth. 

My schedule finally allowed me to read Jerkbait in July and it lived to my expectations. No, it surpassed them! Jerkbait is the kind of book that reminded me why I still read and love YA literature. The writing is superb and the characters are believable and complex. The story tackles heavy issues such as bullying, depression, and teen suicide but it does it brilliantly and honestly. I give Jerkbait my highest recommendation. 

Tristan is our narrator, a high school senior who was forced to play hockey most of his life because that was the plan his parents envisioned for him and his brother Robbie. Tristan is straight, but unlike Robbie, Tristan does not have a passion for the sport. He prefers writing, acting, and watching musicals. Tristan actually has a raw and natural talent for singing and acting, but his creativity is stifled by his overbearing, helicopter parents who only want their son’s lives to include hockey.

Robbie is Tristan’s identical twin brother, but they may as well be strangers. In the beginning of the novel, we hardly see the twin brothers speak to each other or engage outside of their hockey games. What Tristan doesn’t know, nor anyone else for that matter, is that Robbie is perpetually depressed and suicidal because he feels pressured to stay in the closet by everyone and everything around him. He is the best player in the school’s hockey team, is one of the most popular people in school, and his parents are already planning his career as a professional hockey player. Due to all of this pressure, Robbie cannot imagine coming out as gay even though he has known for a decade. If he does, he figures his life will shatter to pieces. Finally, Robbie crumbles under all that he is expected to be and tries to kill himself. This attempted suicide then changes the course of the twin’s relationship.

Rest assured that I have not spoiled too much, as most of what I revealed can be gathered form the back blurb and first couple of chapters. 

Jerkbait by Mia SiegertAfter Robbie’s suicide attempt, the story soars! Reading this relatively short novel (244 pages) was extremely rewarding. I don’t mean to say that it was funny or delightful or lighthearted because it is not that. There are funny parts, but it mostly reads as serious contemporary YA. Mia Siegert uses Tristan’s voice to narrate the entire story. Tristan is a beautiful soul and I assure you that you will adore him by novel’s end. The arc of his and Robbie’s relationship will grip your heart, shatter it, and then reassemble it wholly with an extra dose of hope.

The characters are excellently crafted and relatable…or contemptible. I have already expressed how much I adore Tristan and Robbie. But there are several other great characters that litter the story. Tristan’s former best friend, Heather, was one of my favorites simply because I hated her. She had me screaming and groaning in disgust because she was a vile and mean-spirited creature. I don’t want to ruin what she does to the twins, but gosh, she was very believably petty and loathsome. You know its’ good characterization when you actively love and/or hate characters. This is what Mia Siegert does throughout the novel. The parents, love interests, friends, and villains are all rendered vividly and realistically. 

I do have to admit slight disappointment at the fact that the narrator is not gay. When I read LGBT fiction, I prefer the story to focus on or to be narrated by an LGBT protagonist. However, in the case of Jerkbait, Tristan’s voice works well. He is a kind and compassionate youth who loves and accepts his brother. By having a straight ally as the narrator, teens are able to see a model who is supportive, non-judgmental, and who stands up to injustice. And in Robbie, readers are able to see a story of growth and a path to self-acceptance that is so relatable and moving that it’s difficult not to empathize with and understand Robbie’s struggles. This is ultimately where Jerkbait triumphs — as a vibrant, honest, and poignant lesson in empathy. 

I cannot recommend this book enough, so please read it if you are a fan of contemporary YA or books about LGBT issues. It’s also a darn good story on its own and one of the finest YA debuts of 2016. 

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26 thoughts on “Review: Jerkbait by Mia Siegert

  1. Amazing review! This sounds like such a great book. I get what you mean about the narration. I tend to agree with you, but as long as the minorities in the story aren’t used in a way I would consider tokenistic, I can deal. It sounds like a really sweet story about brotherhood. Thanks for making me aware of it 🙂

    1. Glad I could bring it to your attention! It’s very good and you should definitely read it some time.
      Robbie is definitely not a token. He’s wonderful and complex and it’s really his story.
      Also, there’s twin telepathic magic in here (kind of?) which was very surprising and fun to read!

      1. I don’t think I’ve read much about twins before, apart from One, a while back. Have you read it? It’s incredible but totally devastating.

        The whole telepathy angle sounds fascinating!

  2. You are having some great luck with YA books recently. Which is good for me, because I love getting the recommendations for myself and my daughter! Just added this to my ever-growing list. 🙂
    My daughter just read Aristotle and Dante last week (on your recommendation), and she really liked it. She said the ending was awesome. It’s all I can do not to ask how it ends. I’ll have to read it myself!

    1. I don’t read a lot of YA, so I make sure the ones I do read are great! Please do keep coming to me for YA recommendations 😀
      Aww, I’m so happy to hear that! The ending is so sweet and heart warming. I’ll never forget it.

      Jerkbait is not really a sweet and heart-warming book, though. It deals with some heavy subjects but it has a very positive message in the end. I’d recommend it to 15-year-olds and up.

  3. Is the book told in first-person POV from Tristan, or third? I wondered because having it in third might give readers room to understand how to be an ally, but not totally leave out Robbie’s thoughts. If it’s all first person, the author’s choice seems a tiny bit lit a missed opportunity!

    I’ve met twins (and am related to one set that was indistinguishable in high school–their names are Craig and Greg, but everyone called them Chip and Dip), and it’s hard to believe they wouldn’t be emotionally entangled in their high school years. Spouses and children would be the motivator to become their own persons, I would think. Did you find the twins being so far apart emotionally to be realistic?

    1. It’s first-person POV. Tristan is such a great character, though, and Robbie is just as important to the story. The plot revolves around him, actually. So I didn’t mind too much, but yes, I would have preferred Robbie’s POV!

      I don’t know many twins, so it’s difficult for me to say what’s a realistic relationship or not. I know many different siblings who are nothing alike, my youngest brother and me are like that! Robbie and Tristan had very different friend groups and different interests other than hockey. I didn’t really think about whether it was realistic or not, but it was presented believably enough that I didn’t mind. In the end, they do grow together and their relationship blossoms. They also develop twin telepathy, kinda. It was really cool and strange at the same time. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to take it seriously but there really were elements of twin telepathy in this book! Not sure what to think about it other than it was awesome.

  4. I love a fabulous debut — it’s the best thing to feel like you’re in on the ground floor of an author’s career. HAVE YOU (this is probably v. old news) read the webcomic Check Please? I’m sure it and this book are completely different — this sounds much sadder for one thing — but it’s a wonnnnnnderful webcomic about a college hockey team. if you’re interested!

  5. The way you describe the tone reminds me of how I felt about reading Sherman Alexie’s Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which also is not delightful but somehow manages to be funny! It’s a difficult maneuver, but I reallly like it when authors can strike that balance. And while I, too, would love the LGBTQ character to be at the heart of the novel, I can appreciate that some young readers might not read that novel (thinking it’s not for them) but might pick up Jerkbait and still meet a fully-fleshed-out LGBTQ character on the page.

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