- Series: Black Book: Diary of a Teenage Stud (Book 1)
- Mass Market Paperback: 240 pages
- Publisher: HarperTeen; 1 edition (August 21, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0064407985
- ISBN-13: 978-0064407984
- Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 24 x 6.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 41 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,313,136 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Black Book: Diary of a Teenage Stud, Vol. I: Girls, Girls, Girls Mass Market Paperback – August 21, 2001
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Traditionally, series fiction for teens is light, fluffy, and more likely to be found in a beach bag than on a required summer reading list. But lately, series fiction is starting to take itself a bit more, well, seriously, a good example being The Black Book: Diary of a Teenage Stud by the mysterious Jonah Black. A projected trilogy, the true author of Jonah's fictitious journal is hiding behind the Black name, apparently not yet willing to take credit for this Twin Peak-ish, literary sex tale. In the first volume, "Girls, Girls, Girls," Jonah reveals his difficulty in separating his rich imaginary life with the real world. Between writing about his steamy, disturbing encounters with the beautiful and possibly made-up Sophie, Jonah also documents some cold, hard facts about himself: he was expelled from his Pennsylvania boarding school, his former Florida high school is forcing him to repeat 11th grade, and his mom is a scary New Age sex therapist who writes books like Hello Penis! Hello, Vagina! Who wouldn't retreat into a fantasy world? But as Jonah's writing progresses, he begins to drop hints about his sordid Pennsylvania past, and savvy readers will be able to start to put together the clues of his unexplained expulsion. It isn't likely that Jonah's quirkily complex diary will entice the usual Sweet Valley High series reader, but it is sure to intrigue teen fans of oddball writers such as Daniel Pinkwater and Douglas Adams. It's weird, but this darkly humorous mystery is definitely worth it. (Ages 14 and older) --Jennifer Hubert
From Publishers Weekly
Through his journals, Jonah Black (who's listed as the official author) narrates this engaging, if offbeat, first installment, chronicling his return to Pompano Beach, Fla., after he's booted out of his Pennsylvania boarding school. He's forced to repeat his junior year, listen to his mother, a self-appointed "sexpert" and author of the bestselling Hello Penis! Hello Vagina! host a shallow radio call-in show, and watch the best friend he's crushing on fall in love with a worthless womanizer. These often painful doses of reality are overlaid with surreal sexual fantasies, the majority of which involve the girlfriend he left behind (in one, Sophie does a striptease in a classroom). Readers willing to navigate these unannounced imaginative episodes will race through this fast-paced read to collect clues about the cause of his expulsion and to see if Jonah's breaks from reality mean he's crazy or just creative. Regardless, he's instantly likable, and his vulnerabilities, acute description and tenuous hold on reality make for gripping and often humorous reading. Some readers may be frustrated by how many strings are left untied, even as they eagerly anticipate Jonah's next book. Ages 9-up.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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Things aren't great in Jonah's life. His friends have all changed but they insist that he hasn't changed at all. He isn't sure where he fits in and doesn't trust them enough to tell them what happened to cause his expulsion from private school. Jonah is upset about being a junior, but there doesn't seem to be anything he can do about it. And to make matters worse, his mother is too concerned with her new life as a sex expert for teens, with a book and a radio show, to worry about Jonah's problems. Jonah dreams and writes about a girl, Sophie, from his private school, but he doesn't ever say what exactly she meant to him. Will Jonah be able to conquer all of his problems and fit in with his classmates?
I liked most of the characters in this story, especially Honey. I thought she was really cool, although her relationship with her brother didn't seem all that realistic. I liked reading about Jonah's confusion and lack of self confidence. I would hope that in the future books of this series it will become clear that Jonah isn't the only one who feels that way.
I didn't love the character of Jonah himself; I found him a little annoying, and it was hard for me to get used to the fact that there was no transition between what was really happening and what was going on in his fantasy world. I also didn't like that this book left the reader hanging on so many points, almost forcing everyone to read the next book.
Now even more perplexed and, I'll confess, titillated (in my defense, I am a 16 year-old male) I immediately ran to the computer in the bookstore where I work to see if the book was, in fact, what it appeared to be on first glance. Much to my astonishment, all the reviews I read indicated that it indeed was. It was at this point that I realized that the author listed on the cover was eponymous with the title character and that nowhere in either the book itself or in my bookstore's database was he/she identified any further.
Of course, at this point I simply had to sit down and read the whole thing. The book consists of only 236 pages of very quick-reading prose, so the time commitment on my part wasn't more than a couple of hours. It only took me a few pages to get used to the very ambitious conceit employed by the author so it was no time before I began to settle into the life of Mr. Jonah Black.
I won't worry about giving away any plot points because it doesn't take long before the book begins to hint at these anyway. As the book opens, the title character believes he is beginning his senior year at Don Shula High School in Florida after having been expelled from a Pennsylvania boarding school he had been attending in order to live closer to his father. Now he is living with his mother, a freakishly accurate portrayal of a best-selling self-help "sexpert" and perfectly unbearable to her two teenage children (her favorite expression seems to be, "are you being nice to yourself?"). Jonah's sister is one year younger than he and a veritable genius who has already skipped one grade at her selective magnet school. She also happens to be the most promiscuous girl in her ZIP code and yet manages to convince her ever so clueless mother that, when she goes to visit the entire football team, it's just to help them all study.
Meanwhile, Jonah is in for a surprise on his first day back at school. Apparently, his expulsion from the Pennsylvania boarding school precluded his taking the final examination for his German class, resulting in him receiving a "D" grade for the semester. This does not sit well with the administration of Shula High, which specializes in languages, so he must now repeat the eleventh grade. This puts Jonah in the unenviable position of being one year behind his own "little" sister.
To make matters worse, Jonah is having severe difficulties with his relationships with the opposite sex. The extent of his experience seems to be a brief on-line correspondence with a Norwegian university student and an unhealthy obsession with Sophie, the object of the aforementioned sexual fantasies, who may or may not be imaginary. The only real female whom he finds the least bit appealing is his best friend, Posie, who is unfortunately all-but-married to an attractive but rather dense surfer named Wailer.
The book follows Jonah through the first few months of the school year as he attempts to re-establish something resembling a normal life. Jonah drops hints along the way about his sordid past which would serve as motivators for the reader to pay attention and keep up with the story. This proves unnecessary, however, due to the author's considerable skill at engaging the reader with interesting characters and hilarious plot turns. The reader's interest is also preserved by a prose style that is simultaneously down-to-earth without feeling dumbed down, a rarity among current teen fiction.
Though certain background details of Jonah's life might invite comparisons to Salinger's Holden Caulfield, the similarities between the two end there. Jonah is, in my mind, a far more believable and attractive character than Holden. He has very little of Holden's irritating self-pitying or self-destructive tendencies. Also, unlike Holden, Jonah does not constantly pass judgment on the entire world but respects the reader's intelligence by allowing him to recognize for himself the absurdities of teenage life without being hit over the head with them incessantly.
The Black Book avoids the common pitfall of young adult literature of taking itself too seriously and trying to confront specific "issues". The main character is both likable and realistic and his problems are neither of the superficial, Sweet Valley High variety, nor so exaggeratedly outlandish as to seem far removed from the experiences of most teenagers. And although he is quite introspective and engages in an overactive fantasy life, Jonah is not one of the moody, alienated types that has become such a trite staple of teen literature since Catcher in the Rye and The Outsiders.
Above all, though, readers will appreciate The Black Book for its sense of humor, which almost never sinks to the level of American Pie style antics. The author succeeds at a very delicate balancing act of taking the audience deep into the mind of Jonah Black while remaining removed enough to recognize just how hilarious his life is.
Teen literature has always been a weak genre, so it's nice to find a new voice in it who knows how to relate to teenagers without being condescending. I heartily recommend this novel to any mature reader of high school age or above. And, though The Black Book ends on a note of unresolved climax, it more than makes up for it with the promise of a sequel to come.
Most recent customer reviews
At the very beginning of the book Jonah comes back to Florida, his hometown.Read more
if you want to read a great book then buy all of Jonahs Books!!!