Original publish date: 24 August 2014
Pining after someone you know you shouldn’t and having some feelings of despair is something we’ve all done. Regrettably.
Jon Jacks’s Heartache High explores that concept in an intriguing manner. Stephanie (Steph) Johnson wakes up from dreaming of Iain Sinclair in a strange room with absolutely no memory of how she got there. It appears to be an abandoned Victorian property and she runs through the possibilities of a hospital, an asylum, and finally lands on dormitories of a boarding school. And the sign she finds confirms that notion: Heartache High, which happens to exist in a different reality from the “real” world.
As Steph explores the property with no one seemingly around, she notices oddities that make her think there might be ghosts around. When they appear around her, she wonders what’s going on–namely if she’s dead. Steph becomes acclimated to Heartache High but stubbornly imbibes in her dreams and daydreams that revolve around Iain, remaining in a semi-forlorn state of longing. And the odd turn the dreams took had Steph wondering if she was somehow connected to the real world or if it she subconscious working through her obsessive pining after Iain. Enter succubae and a plot to take over lovelorn youths.
The story was intriguing and the short sentences and overall brevity of the narrative made for an incredibly fast read. But the fast pace of the narrative felt rushed and I don’t feel as if I have a cohesive understanding of Steph, because she simply seems like a whiny, pining brat, but when battling the succubae she suddenly had a bravado and depth that was brushed over and mostly ignored. And the wham-bam introduction of the succubae to the story, while understandable to the odd events of the story, it didn’t seemed to be well developed. While characters and the situation may be further developed in subsequent installments, I was left questioning too much of what happened for it to have a cliffhanger type ending; rather, I left the story with a resigned feeling of “okay.” With regard to first impressions, I was put off from the first page where there were numerous punctuation issues. I looked as if it were conforming to poetic conventions rather than prose, but the narrative style seemed to be prose.
Overall, I’d give it a 3 out of 5 stars.