Thursday, January 7, 2010

Jerk, California by Jonathan Friesen

Jerk, California revolves around Sam Carrier, a senior in high school, and his relationships with both your typical perfect girl so often found in YA, Naomi, and his father who died when he was two and allegedly left him with nothing but Tourette's.

After graduation, Sam works for the local crazy as a gardener, who slowly reveals secrets about Sam's past. After a series of unlikely events, Sam is left with a map and lots of cash, embarking on an improbable road trip with Naomi in tow.

This book takes place in the boonies of Minnesota, and most of the characters use poor grammar and possess and hick twang. This is both annoying and a refreshing change of pace from the majority of YA books set in urban areas. But overall, the voice is amateurish and the book contains too many crazy coincidences. For realistic fiction, Friesen hands us too many unrealistic plot devices.

Another source of annoyance comes from Sam's disease. I have a friend who also had Tourette's in high school, and Sam's tics seemed to be just a little exaggerated. I didn't really feel sorry for him, even though that was the point. Friesen seemed to use the same language over and over again to describe Sam's fluttering muscles, and what started as mildly annoying became easily ignored, which almost defeats the whole purpose of the story. This could have been an important book on behalf of America's teen population struggling with Tourette's. Instead, it just falls flat because half way through, you breeze right through the tics and are left with a plot shot full of holes.

Jerk, California is interesting. It's definitely a page-turner, but it's not nearly realistic or striking enough to leave much of an impression when you're through.

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