Monday, September 9, 2013

Living with Jackie Chan by Jo Knowles

Josh has left his home and all his friends for his senior year of high school and moves in with his Jackie Chan obsessed uncle.  Josh needs to get away from last year and everything that happened.  He can't face her.  But leaving everything behind hasn't gotten rid of the guilt and the wondering and the pain of not knowing, and Josh doesn't know how to make it better.

This is a companion to Jumping Off Swings, which I have not read.  This book stands alone of its own quite well, but after having read it I'm curious to read Jumping Off Swings.

Josh was a relatable character.  He's doing his best to act like everything is fine.  He doesn't want to be trouble for anyone.  But things are not fine at all.  Luckily for Josh, he's living with his uncle Larry, who was probably the best person Josh could live with.  Larry didn't, and couldn't, fix things for Josh, but he was a presence unlike any Josh had had in his life before.  Larry is full of positive energy and life.  Josh described him as like a puppy, and that seemed pretty accurate.  Larry is an advanced black belt in karate, and convinces Josh to take lessons.  Again, karate doesn't fix things for Josh, but it does provide him with an outlet.

I liked reading about Josh's parents.  Josh's parents are still together, but from what he says, that hadn't really spoken to each other in years.  It didn't seem like there was a whole lot of support for Josh the previous year.  But when Josh leaves, his parent's begin to undergo a transformation of their own.  Josh's leaving makes them reconsider their own lives, and they start to work to make things better, for themselves and for Josh.  We only see Josh's parents through his perspective, it's never their story, but I like that angle.  There were a lot of people undergoing transformations of one kind or another over the course of this school year.

The final plot point is Josh's relationship with Stella, who lives in his building and also takes karate.  The two are friends outside of school, but Stella has a jealous boyfriend and she won't talk to or even acknowledge Josh in school.  Josh tries to convince himself that this is for the best, since it's not like he wants a relationship, not after what happened last year.


So for those of you who haven't read Jumping Off Swings and don't mind a spoiler, what happened last year was that Josh got a girl pregnant after a one night stand.  The girl had the baby, and part of what tears Josh up is wondering what happened to the baby, who'd been given up for adoption.  He is not in contact with the mother, he's too ashamed, so there's no way to find out.  But there was more than that, although that would have been enough.  Josh has been keeping something else in about that night, something that weighs so heavily on his conscious he can't pull himself out of the anger and the guilt and the sorrow.

Good read, with good boy appeal.

Living with Jackie Chan comes out September 10, 2013.

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