Terri's Reviews > Jerk, California

Jerk, California by Jonathan Friesen
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May 19, 2010

liked it

"Jerk, California" is Sam Carrier's story. It is also Jack Keegan's story. They are the same person, but they are very different. The story opens when Sam is a little boy and the doctor is delivering the news to the family that Sam has Tourette's Syndrome, which was passed on to him by his birth father who died long ago. We follow Sam as he grows up with his mother, Lydia, and his abusive stepfather, Old Bill. On the occasion of his graduation from high school, his life takes a dramatic turn when he meets George, the best friend of his birth father. George sends him on a roadtrip to reclaim his name (Jack Keegan) and his past - and to find himself in the process.

What works here? The focus on Tourette's Syndrome is unique, and since the author himself has has Tourette's, the voice feels authentic. It is rare in young adult literature to find a character with this condition. The book was instructional in this sense. I also thought the storyline had the potential to be very compelling. And it has a simple, attention-getting cover. My eye is always drawn to it when I pass the copies on our shelves.

What doesn't work? I felt the writing was very awkward. I found myself wondering many times what was going on and having to go back and reread. The author left it to the reader to make giant leaps in time, event, thought, character, etc. without adequate transitions. Sometimes I wondered if my copy, on my eReader, was missing parts. Much is lost as a result of the "jerkiness" in the writing of this book.

The rest of the thematic material - coming of age, self-acceptance, bullying, family/domestic abuse, road trips - is tried and true - nothing new here.

I really wanted to like this book more. With the potential to be a great book, this book is ultimately mediocre at best.
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