Monday, September 10, 2012

Review (Book) - The Edumacation of Jay Baker by Jay Clark

"A few random bullet points about Jay:

  • He is stupidly in love with his best friend, cheerleading dynamo Cameo "Appearance" Parnell.
  • He is also trying to score (points) with earthbound tennis-playing goddess Caroline Richardson.
  • He is fighting a losing battle with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
  • He rocks a touché array of pop-culture references, jokes, and puns.
  • His family cookie life is about to crumble.

Root for Jay as he exchanges ego-blows with his mortal enemy, gets awkward around his dream girl(s), loses his marbles in a Bermudian love triangle, watches his parents' relationship implode, and, finally, learns to keep it real and be himself(ish)." (inside jacket cover)

At first I was really excited about reading this book for my YA Lit class...The picture on the cover was appealing, not to mention it comes stamped with a promise of "You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll feel awkward by association.", and the "random bullet points" sounded like  the story had the potential to be great (though I don't think Jay ever found himself in the midst of a love triangle - at least not the kind typical to today's YA series). Not to mention, I loved Gilmore Girls for their quick wit and often subtle pop-culture references, and am quite the sarcastic person myself. I'll admit, I definitely started out laughing, and the narrative did make for a very quick read (I think I finished it in about 2 days). I also enjoyed the short and creatively titled chapters. comes the but...

About halfway through the book, trying to keep up with Jay's pop-culture references started becoming wearisome - it felt like there was at least one in every paragraph. Remember those "creatively titled chapters" I mentioned earlier? They are creative in the sense that each one is a "Track" in Jay's "Playah-List" of life, and each one is a real song title that has been slightly changed or added to to hint at what is to come in the chapter. It's really quite amazing the author was able to find so many songs to do this with - 42 to be exact. Confused? I don't blame you. Take for instance, chapter ("track") two. Instead of Tina Turner's "What's Love Got to Do with It", the chapter is entitled "What's Vicky's Secret Got to Do with It?" when Cameo is convinced Jay's mom is hiding a dark secret in her underwear drawer. (For those of us curious enough to want to know what the actual songs were, that list is included at the end of the book.) These songs range from Beatles songs to Fleetwood Mac, to Katy Perry and Lady Gaga, leading to the question...seriously, Mr. Clark? You think teenagers are going to understand half of the things Jay is saying? I feel like the author is trying to start by writing a classic - spanning generations. Also, at some point in the book Jay develops such a gargantuan vocabulary that I had to get out a dictionary. I'm sorry, but does ANY teen on the face of the planet (other than maybe spelling bee fanatics) know what the words epiglottis or somnambulant mean? (Look at that, even Google Chrome doesn't recognize the latter as a word!)

On some levels, I do feel that teens will be able to relate to the story. No doubt they will understand at least some of the pop culture references, and will likely connect with Jay's manner of speaking (like using variations of and/or making up entirely new words to use in lieu of cursing). They will also probably relate to at least some of the problems Jay faces throughout his story. 

Unfortunately, any character outside of Jay's family (except maybe Cameo) isn't really developed, apart from his strange teacher Ms. Lambert, who likes to spend her time with Jay trying to "outdo each other with witticisms." (p. 159) She really started to annoy me, and I felt that her voice was often just as immature as Jay's. Frankly, if this is a realistic depiction of teachers, my children will be homeschooled until college.

While this book is supposed to be a coming-of-age/self-discovery novel of-sorts, I felt that (out of it's 272 pages) Jay actually spent the equivalent of 28 pages (or less) "learning" anything, the other 244(ish) pages were spent on sarcastic pop-culture overkill.

Amazon recommends this book for ages 14 and up, a rating I find fair.

My Rating:


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