Saturday, November 01, 2008

Jerk, California


Friesen, Jonathan. 2008. Jerk, California.

"Sam has it. Question is, how bad?"

What is "it"? It is Tourette's Syndrome. Our narrator, Sam, (or should that be Sam/Jack) is a teen struggling with it among other things--an awful and sometimes abusive stepfather, the loss of his father whom he can't even remember, his lack of friends and a love life, etc. He has a tendency to blame the disease for most of his problems. And he's not all wrong. His stepfather, Bill, does hate him because of it. Every time he witnesses Sam jerking or blurting, he has a tendency to take it out on his wife--be it physical, emotional, or verbal abuse. Bill is not without issues of his own. He's got OCD, and it's to the extent that it's interfering with his life and his work. It's pretty safe to say that the Sam readers are first introduced to is angry and bitter and antisocial.

What if anything changes all that? Well, Sam's life changes soon after he graduates from high school. He's hired by one of the odder men in town, a guy named George. He's to help him with his gardening business. Room and board are included in the job description, one of the chief reasons he takes the job--to get away from his stepfather. George has a few secrets though. For one, George knew Sam's father. But the strangest thing about George is his insistence that Sam be called Jack. Jack Keegan. Sam is just beginning to ask questions about his father when George dies somewhat unexpectedly. What he leaves behind is priceless to Sam/Jack. Almost everything has been left to him. But more importantly, he's been left with instructions for a road trip. He's been told to go to Jerk, California.

Naomi is George's granddaughter. She's the same age as Sam/Jack. Though the two are from different social circles of course. She invites herself along on this road trip...and the trip becomes a learning experience for the two of them.

I won't go into all the details, of course, but this is one trip, one summer they'll never forget.
It is a journey to self-acceptance for one thing. A journey to discover himself, to find his "real" identity.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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