Some New Trend

Road Tripping with Mennonites :: Jerk, California by Carrie Rollwagen

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jerkca1BOOK REVIEW :: by Carrie Rollwagen

Within the first two (short) chapters of Jerk, California, our hero, Sam, has 1) been diagnosed with Tourette’s, and 2) met a beautiful girl.

I expected a somewhat formulaic “boy-meets-girl, girl-gets-past-boy’s-socially-awkward-disease, boy-and-girl-live-happily-ever-after-at-least-until-prom” story. I didn’t mind a little triteness, because I enjoyed Jonathan Friesen’s somewhat minimal, comfortable writing style.

Turns out, I was wrong. Not about the voice, which was consistently both welcoming and compelling, or about the protagonist, whom I liked more as the story unfolded. I was wrong to assume the plot would be predictable.

The hero’s search for identity and acceptance took turns I never expected. The beautiful “girl next door” defied her one-dimensional stereotype. By the middle of the book, I had no idea how it would end — and the plot and characters are so interesting, I wanted to find out.

Jerk, California takes on heavy subjects, not the least of which is the main character’s Tourette’s, without feeling oppressive, even for a moment. Scenes in which Tourette’s plays a major role are disturbing, but not gratuitous.  Friesen also took on issues like faith and abstinance — and, though I suspect he’s a Christian, I’m not sure, because he’s not preachy or overbearing.

It’s not a thinly disguised “How to Deal with Tourette’s” book masquerading as fiction, it’s completely free of cheesy James Dobson stereotypes (There are Mennonites! Without buggies!), and it’s far from the romantic comedy I first imagined it to be. Jerk, California is a fully realized story with great, likeable characters and a compelling plot. And there’s a road trip, a few windmills, and some guy named Coot. Read it!


3 Comments so far
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This is one of my favorite new YA books. Your review was so right on. I loved how refreshing Jerk was, something hard to find (in my opinion) in most YA novels.

Comment by Elisa M

sweeet, i’ll read this soon

Comment by Sanjay Malkani

Hi, nice post. I have been pondering this issue,so thanks for blogging. I will probably be subscribing to your blog. Keep up the good posts

Comment by I Lost T h i r t y P o u n d s in Thirty Days

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