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Jess, Chunk, and the Road Trip to Infinity Hardcover – November 8, 2016
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From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Immediately after graduation, Jess and her best friend, Chunk, embark on a road trip from San Jose, CA, to Chicago. Trans teen Jess has tried to fly under the radar, but now she's ready to show her true self. Where better to make her debut than a surprise appearance at her transphobic dad's wedding to her mom's former best friend? The road trip uncovers many worries, tensions, and truths. Jess is concerned for her safety and nervous about passing. Her friendship with Chunk—who really hates the taunting and judgmental nickname and would prefer to be called Chuck—is on the rocks, too. He's spending the trip texting another girl while growing increasingly irritated at Jess's utter self-absorption. For someone so aware of names, image, and identity, Jess is extremely insensitive, especially when it comes to weight. It takes seeing (and overhearing) Chuck interact with new people for Jess to understand her feelings and begin to see beyond herself. Though it relies on an engaging premise, the novel is a mixed bag. Some things are true simply because readers are told they are (such as a significant revelation about Chuck that's barely addressed). Chuck and Jess avoid some really big conversations that would reveal more about themselves and their relationship. Much like their friendship, the ending feels superficial. VERDICT Despite its flaws, this is still a useful addition to collections because of its rare multifaceted picture of a trans girl with a story that is about more than just coming out.—Amanda MacGregor, formerly at Great River Regional Library, Saint Cloud, MN
"Clark (Freakboy, 2013) has written a thoughtful, engaging examination of a transition that is fraught with misunderstandings...Readers will be anxious to find out in this compelling novel that deserves a place at the forefront of the growing body of literature about transgender teens." ―Michael Cart, Booklist, starred review
"Clark makes an important contribution to LGBTQIA+ literature for young adults by writing a story that demonstrates the often-uneasy process of self-discovery, as well as the universality of the human experience. Teens who like road-trip stories will enjoy the fun details about the cross-country excursion, and teens who like trans* stories will enjoy the fact that this one is not about a trans* teen figuring out she is, in fact, trans*―Jess has already done that work and is moving on." ―VOYA
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I was looking forward to ‘Jess, Chunk, and the Road Trip to Infinity,’ it promised interesting characters and a journey filled with crazy events. What I got was cute, cheesy, and sometimes a little frustrating.
I liked the narrative style – it was about people, and not the body issues they struggled with (Jess struggled with her gender and Chunk with his weight.) I liked how it illustrated how not everyone gets it. And how any one person is more than one thing and has faults of their own… how the sum total of many things makes us up as individuals.
I did find our protagonist Jess a bit selfish. How she was all about her transition. But I know people who have lived through that process, and it sums up their mental space for that period of time. They’ve been on this journey for so long it consumes them. Not to say they are bad people or narrow-minded. They are simply protecting themselves, anchoring to their core to allow growth once they’ve found that safe place within. But I would have like to have seen her step outside issues other than her gender expression. Nut her story is an important one, and I liked how she interacted with the outside world and started to test boundaries.
Chunk could have been a little more expressive and assertive. He was so compassionate, it felt crippling. I was praying to see him a little more confronting and add some tension to the story, force Jess to think with a bigger perspective. He just such a big adorable teddy bear.
Jess and Chunk were both likeable, and engaging to read, but I wanted more dimension and intensity. It would have lifted the tone from pleasant to impactful.
It was a great story illuminating issues trans people face, and showing representations of sexuality. It was also wonderful at depicting the fear and doubt that non-hetero-normative people live with for their entire lives. But the other side of this is that these issues weren’t really delivered in a realistic way other than a stream of thought. Jess was sheltered and detached from the community, and from taking part in all the activities of the road trip. I get that she was afraid and protecting herself, but not having the issues she faced connected to the reader in some real life experiences, or those of other characters, diminished the importance of these somewhat.
But this book is a marvellous tool in offering a starting point for dialogue about so many issues of the human condition, and how we treat each other.
I loved the nerdy and sci-fi references – nice touch and appealed to my inner geek. It was also great to read about diverse characters that had real world problems.
I’m ambivalent on the ending – while I enjoyed it, I think that there was more character growth and a lot more issues they needed to work out to reach that point. It felt rushed. Otherwise, wonderfully dramatic and managed to drag out all the feels..
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What starts out as a post graduation trip with a dash of vengeance (Jess...Read more