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Confessions of a Teenage Jesus Jerk Paperback – January 19, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. DuShane's debut novel unfolds within the insular world of Jehovah's Witnesses, following a teenager's coming of age within the strict rules of a widely known but little explored sect. Gabe is in many ways a typical California teenager: attending public high school, lusting after female classmates, and enjoying hacky sack with his best friend, Peter. At the same time, he is preoccupied with thoughts of Armageddon, and whether or not masturbating will keep him from being resurrected at the end of the world. Gabe wrestles genuinely with his faith-both embarrassed and deeply committed. As pre-pubescence gives way to young adulthood, Gabe, his troubled (non-Jehovah) cousin Karen, his high school crush Jasmine, and Peter find their moral dilemmas taking on serious dimensions, eventually leading to a tragedy that profoundly alters Gabe's understanding of faith. As a former practitioner, DuShane writes with an insider's perspective about this unique world, balancing criticism with understanding and a convincing portrait of the struggle to integrate religion into a modern world, producing an ultimately touching story that will speak to atheists and believers alike.
"Darkly funny and authentically kinky, Tony DuShane's first novel is a surprisingly sweet coming-of-age story told through the eyes of a horny, Jehovah-battered, Watchtower-wielding, door-to-door proselytizer. I may never answer my doorbell again." --Mark Haskell Smith, author of Moist; Delicious; and Salty.
"An absorbing and poignant exploration of the dilemmas facing a youth growing up within a conservative religious community--where even the mildest sexual thoughts could land you among the post-Armageddon forever-damned. Where there's not even much point to aspiring to a career, since church elders expect the world to end any day now." --C.D. Payne, author of Youth In Revolt
"Tony DuShane's highly original novel lives at the fecund corner of religion and sex. Confessions of a Teenage Jesus Jerk captures the ache of an adolescent heart drunk on a combustible cocktail of Jesus, hormones, and visions of escape. You'll pull for this most sympathetic hero and hope he finds a god of his own." --Seth Greenland, author of Shining City and The Bones
"Confessions of a Teenage Jesus Jerk is astonishing and hilarious, evoking shades of John Kennedy Toole and C.D. Payne. Tony DuShane's got a sharp, new voice that's sure to be noticed; I have no doubt he'll garner fans fast." --Katie Crouch, author of Girls in Trucks and Men and Dogs
"I'll never slam the door on a Watchtower hopeful again without thinking of Tony DuShane's hilarious, original coming-of-age novel. Addictive, informative, heartbreaking, and utterly satisfying." --Janet Fitch, author of White Oleander and Paint It Black
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Top customer reviews
Tony Dushane is an incredible writer. The story is captivating and hilarious. It's told with such brutal honesty and genuine humor, and written with a strong and compelling voice. I high encourage it. It's a must read!
The opening chapters of the novel initially turned me off. Gabe shotgun blasts non-sequiturs about his life in junior high school and within his Jehovah's Witness community. The writing is quite rambling and reads as if written by an eighth grader with ADD. Perhaps it is an intentional choice since the text is in the first person perspective.
I'm glad I pushed through. As Gabe moves forward into high school the writing falls into a nice rhythm. The narrative revolves around Gabe's sexual awakening, starting with masturbating over contraband rated-R movies to awkward encounters with a cousin to backseat make-out sessions. This is common ground for all teenagers, but not all teenagers exist in a religious community where touching a breast can get you tossed out and unable to even say hello to friends and family.
For me this book is at its best when dealing with the minutia of life within the religious cult. Having the same background I could relate to things like hoagie assembly lines and scoping out girls in floral print dresses with binoculars at summer district conventions. All of this was relayed in a humorous manner with uncanny accuracy. If some of it reads as unbelievable, I can honestly say that "the truth" is stranger than fiction.
The ending of the story felt a little forced, but it wasn't unsatisfactory and did get me choked up. I've lived that story and it is easy to connect characters in the novel to Witnesses I've known over the years. In total, it was a well-written, funny book with extremely likable and memorable characters. I look forward to what DuShane comes up with next.
How does a boy navigate the treachery of the contradictions in the bible with reality? These are tenets that are thoroughly believed in youth, tenets that begin to crumble in early teens. Are they still in place when a boy graduates from high school? That is the progression that DuShane writes, the progression that happened with me. I wonder how autobiographical it was.
The characters change and grow in unanticipated ways. The plot, well it isn't a book of plot twists, though it is intriguing.
I liked this book a lot. It was honest, didn't shy away from tough questions. It had humor through it all. I was never able to find a good spot to put it down, to go to sleep. That is truly a sign of a book that I enjoy. I will have to keep my eyes out for other novels as DuShane writes more.
"Confessions of a Teenage Jesus Jerk" is a book that manages the impressive feat of wringing a thoughtful, addictive page-turner out of an unlikely source: the first person narrative of an intelligent, pubescent boy struggling to reconcile his hormonal impulses with the tenants of the faith he was born into.
It's actually quite a testament to the author's talents that he can convey so many details of that faith in a manner that is at turns hilarious, heartbreaking, and compelling.
I am surprised at how ravenously I devoured this book and that I already want to read it again, which is probably the highest compliment I can pay it.