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When the Coin is in the Air

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Like most boys, Jason Blake wants to please his father and older brother. But this erratic father and hyper-competitive brother challenge beyond the norm. To find his way, Jason tries on different roles: schoolyard bully, football player, actor, student. At 20, Jason escapes his Midwest home and seeks independence and adventure: first to Cape Cod, later in Europe. Each adventure takes Jason farther from his father and brother. Each brings him closer to finding himself. When he returns home, the world as he knew it explodes and Jason risks all to protect his mother from his violent father. The dramatic and unforgettable course of events changes this family forever. And they promise to change the reader too.

283 pages, Kindle Edition

Published July 18, 2019

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About the author

John Young

3 books8 followers
When John Young was eight-years old, he told his mother he wanted to be a scientist or a clown. So he went into advertising, and figures he got pretty close.

Born and raised beyond the suburbs in Indianapolis, Young graduated from Indiana University, and earned an MFA in creative writing from Emerson College. In addition to Getting Huge, he is the author of When the Coin is in the Air, a novel, and Fire in the Field & Other Stories.

He spent 20 years in Beverly, Mass. and now lives in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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5 stars
30 (68%)
4 stars
9 (20%)
3 stars
4 (9%)
2 stars
1 (2%)
1 star
0 (0%)
Displaying 1 - 20 of 20 reviews
Profile Image for Katy Yocom.
Author 2 books23 followers
May 3, 2020
Jason Blake's story of growing up with an unpredictable, sometimes violent, father and competitive older brother is a timeless coming-of-age novel that feels very much like a memoir. We come along for the journey as Jason navigates the turbulent waters of male power dynamics--first as a little boy trying to prove his worth through football, then as a young man trying to establish his independence and sense of worth while his father's temper grows ever more dangerous. I won't soon forget this story. The characters--especially Jason, his father, and his brother--are so fully realized, you feel that you might run into them on the street. Jason's journey to adulthood is a satisfying and absorbing read.
February 14, 2020
Sadly as a recovering English major, I don't read nearly as many books as I used to. However, I can confidently say that this one was a joy to breeze through while I was on vacation this week in Florida. The characters are so vivid and complex yet still relatable. The mostly Indiana setting was foreign to me but it helped me understand the Hooiser state much better than ever before. The European adventure and trips to New England were very accurate and made me proud to be from the Boston area.
I'm an only child with two loving parents but despite that Jason Blake's complicated relationship with his parents, his older brother Walter and many others was quite engrossing. This was a more modern coming-of-age tale about a Midwestern guy finding his place in the world at large and overcoming quite a few (seen and unseen) obstacles along the way. I can't recommend this book enough, it's a must-read.
Profile Image for Lmarotta.
19 reviews
February 19, 2020
I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to follow this young man’s personal journey. Lots of sitting on the edge of my chair with other periods of enjoying the serenity of the farm and woodlands.
Profile Image for Adrienne Quill.
10 reviews
November 28, 2019
John Young's "When the Coin is in the Air" was an enjoyable read. Full disclosure: I grew up in the part of Indianapolis which is the setting for this book and attended Cathedral High School when Mr. Young taught there although he was not my teacher.

I highly recommend the book for young people in their 20's. Jason Blake is a young man with maturity beyond his years. His ability to maneuver the ups and downs he faces at a young age are remarkable.
His devotion to and recognition of his mother for what she has done for Jason is something which touches me as the mother of two boys.

The book is well-written and tells a good story. I stayed up way too late for several nights because I could not put the book down.

1 review
June 18, 2020
Five stars. This may be Young’s first novel, but with lama-like wisdom woven throughout his artistic and understated prose, this old soul accomplishes a brilliant (and cliché-free) coming of age story made riveting by its utter relatability. Regardless of where you are from, you will see yourself in protagonist Jason. You will laugh remembering your own rites of passage and painfully earnest attempts at self-discovery. You will weep alongside him in struggles to uncover and recover himself surrounded by a world and family determined to define him. You will turn the last page with a warm (but Disney-free) renewal of your own convictions, and with newfound peace amidst ever-present imperfection.
13 reviews
November 16, 2019
Just finished the book. It's fantastic. I really enjoyed reading it. It felt like a real memoir. And I love how the main character stayed vulnerable the entire time. Always wondering what others' motivations were. And it ends on a hopeful note, but still wondering if he will inherit the violence and unproductive father/brother patterns in his family. Everything didn't get tied up in a neat bow every time. Just like real life.
1 review
November 9, 2019
This is a very good read. It was great how we went through life with Jason and his family.
1 review
September 4, 2019
First, Love the title. The title says it all. Truth speaks to us when words get out of the way. An interesting title for a book that uses words to tell a story of anguish, passion and hope set in a young man's journey to find himself. "Who am I if I am not my father, my brother, my mother's son?" Jason, both the victim and the hero of the novel uses the coin of his own wisdom to not only survive but ultimately leave the "family story" and the wreckage wrought by the lineage of pain acted out by his father and succeed.

The description of the Jason-father fight scene was visceral. Set in Indiana with the pastoral reputation of farms, "back home," and domestic tranquility, the contrast of anger and brutality become even more stark. All along, we root for Jason, the part of us that is so like him - wanting to be a part of and yet to be separate and loved.

Thanks, John, for allowing us readers to live the struggle and success through your words. And for the gem of a title that says it all.
August 20, 2019
This is one of those rare books that you start and cannot put down until the very last page. I am a very impatient reader and need to be captivated right from the start or I will put the book down never to pick it up. In fact, I probably have a stack of those in the back of my closet. Not this time. The book was incredibly well written, written in a way that is very “inclusive” to readers of all levels and abilities. I am not a fan of what I call “thesaurus” books: books that are so full of sentences with meaningless synonyms that it goes completely over my head. I just loved this book as it brought up a lot of emotions, at times sad, and at times happy. While it had many unsettling moments, it felt to me a story of hope, growth, a journey which many of us have experienced in some form or another, and those of us who are still trying to get there. I finished the book in three days, with a smile on my face. What a wonderful book!
Profile Image for Erica.
98 reviews
November 2, 2019
What a great story of family and choices and growing up in Indiana-the setting was a bonus for me. I went into this book without even reading the description and am so glad I did. It was pure joy not knowing what to expect and just taking the ride along with Jason the main character. My advice- read it!
1 review1 follower
August 16, 2019
When The Coin Is In the Air is a book that asks the question, how would one react, how would one grow and mature with the circumstances of a childhood, and the development into young adulthood, that challenges you from every direction. As a reader you ask, how would this effect me? What would I do? Written in an engaging first person narrative, it has you rooting for, hoping for this character to rise above and not be scarred by the events in his life. I would recommend this book to anyone coming up through their formative years. Jason is a great role model for integrity, courage and perseverance.
1 review
October 16, 2019
When The Coin Is In The Air, by John Young, is a great book. Very quickly into it, it became a page turner that I always looked forward to getting back to. It’s an exciting and sad story that has a heartwarming ending. I strongly recommend it to anyone who wants a great read with adventure, suspense, love and a story about the journey a young man takes to make his life better, overcoming family and life challenges.
I look forward to John Young’s next novel.
1 review
October 19, 2019
Both of us read mostly nonfiction and rarely read the same novel. I picked it up because the spouse so enjoyed the book that I wanted to see why. It IS a page turner and a joy to finish. Memoirs & coming of age stories speak to me and this one is well written & the characters feel real. Have recommended When the Coin is in the Air to several friends & one has a copy. Can't Wait to discuss with her.
August 15, 2019
Right off the bat, I was drawn into needing to find out what happens to Jason next. Seeing Jason's life unfold became an obsession that I was thinking about when I wasn't reading about it. This was the first story I've read in a LONG time that I got out of bed to read in the middle of the night.
1 review1 follower
August 3, 2019
I got an early copy of this book from a reading. I have to say this book is astounding - one of my new favorites!
Profile Image for Don Tassone.
Author 11 books8 followers
September 15, 2019
A riveting story of adversity, destruction and transcendence. This well written novel pulled me in from the start and didn't let me go.
September 28, 2019
A very touching story of a boy who try to find his way, not following his father, nor his brother, taking risks and going out of his comfort zone. A page turner!
Profile Image for Suanne.
Author 10 books997 followers
July 3, 2020
When the Coin Is in the Air is John Young’s debut novel. It reads like a coming-of-age memoir. The protagonist, Jason Blake, is growing up caught between a mercurial father who is often violent and emotionally abusive, and an older brother who is very competitive yet consistently backs down from confrontations with their father. Jason tries to prove himself to both these male figures in his life. He attempts to excel in sports, but never quite reaches the apogee of his brother’s success. Later, he attempts to establish his own sphere by going to college, traveling to Massachusetts to spend the summer with friends, and going to England. He accepts a job as a high school teacher, teaching English and drama, but finds the efforts soul-sucking.

I enjoyed this book but was left feeling that, at times, the story was overwhelmed by an unnecessary level of detail. I didn’t need to know the names and description of every woman Jason had one or two dates with. Young does a superb job ratcheting up the tension between Jason and his father. I’d have liked to have had more exploration of Jason’s feelings when he states he considered his father a murderer. I fully expected a life-threatening clash between the two, but the tension deflates in an unexpected way that left me feeling a bit flat. But overall I enjoyed reading it and identified with the character’s childhood and young adult years.
Profile Image for Yuri.
7 reviews
March 29, 2022
Really enjoyed John's narrative of growing up -- finding out who you are... and who you aren't-- in Hoosierland.
Profile Image for Sam Redman.
2 reviews
October 30, 2022
Great storytelling. Jason Blake’s life seems almost real and is a fantastic look into the way we think about events and moments life.
Displaying 1 - 20 of 20 reviews

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