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Nice Try, Jane Sinner Hardcover – January 9, 2018
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— Booklist, starred review
"Resplendent with sardonic wit...this debut novel is at turns wickedly funny and thought-provoking. Character-driven, humorous and deceptively profound." — Kirkus
"[Nice Try, Jane Sinner] is witty with a fresh narrative voice. It is rare to find a YA book that discusses faith and religion, but Oelke handles Jane’s religious questioning in an authentic way...Readers will enjoy rooting for her on House of Orange and in life."
— School Library Journal
"Debut novelist Oelke has created a complex and entertaining heroine in Jane, who narrates in sharp-edged, caustically funny journal entries."-Publishers Weekly
"Get ready for the raunchiness, drama and cringe-worthy obsession that comes with reality TV in this cheeky Canadian import."--BCCB
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For me, the best part of the book was the character of Jane herself. She's witty and has sarcastic, but because we're inside of her head through her journal entries and daydreams, we can see what is underneath the snark. Some of her interactions with the other contestants are funny, and some of the challenges are pretty amusing as well. The writing style is crisp and easy to read - the book is told through journal entries, conversations, and notes/messages.
On the "cons" side, the book is too long for this type of plot and development. It took me about 100-150 pages to really get into the story - even though I enjoyed the character of Jane, I didn't have the feeling that I couldn't wait to turn the next page. It wasn't until the middle of the book that I felt the story picked up and I really wanted to keep going. There's at least one character that I felt didn't add enough to the story and could have easily been cut out, which would have helped shorten the story.
Also, although the book is put in the "Christian" category, I'll note that if you are looking for a story where the primary character has positive views of a religious figure and/or faith, this is not that type of book.
House of Orange is a decidedly low-budget reality show. The grand prize is a used car. The participants get discounted rent in a house where they have to live together. There are periodic challenges for smaller prizes, like a restaurant gift card. The show is on YouTube, although it gains popularity quickly and ends up being broadcast on local TV, which leads to some complications for Jane. I don't watch any reality shows, so I can't speak to the accuracy of the portrayal, but everything about House of Orange is very funny.
The novel's format is entries from Jane's diary. This makes her an extremely unreliable narrator since we only see things from her point of view, and she even admits at times that she's not being entirely honest with herself. A big chunk of the diary entries are dialogue between Jane and the other characters, with unspoken commentary from her. Jane is hilarious. She's snarky and awesome, and she's determined to win the contest, so her behavior is pretty ruthless. She's taking a psychology class, and she tends to treat the show like it's one big psychology experiment. There are also conversations between Jane and her imaginary psychiatrist, in which she tries to psychoanalyze herself, which is hilarious.
Jane is dealing with some mental health issues, and she has quit therapy, so in a sense, she's using the reality show as a form of therapy. As you can imagine, this is not terribly effective. Part of Jane's issues is coming to terms with religious differences between her and her parents. Jane's parents are very religious and think every problem can be solved by prayers, while Jane has come to realize that she no longer shares her parents' beliefs. I liked the way this issue was handled
I did have a couple of issues with the book. My main complaint is that I found it unrealistic that Jane's parents would allow their 17-year-old daughter, who has some pretty serious issues, to move out on her own. I also found that the book was a bit choppy in places. A couples of times something happened that confused me and I had to flip back to see if I had missed something. I read an advanced copy, so it's possible that this issue will be tweaked before publication. In any case, neither of these issues were dealbreakers for me, and I really enjoyed the book.
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1) It's blunt.
2) It's laugh-out-loud funny.Read more