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Nice Try, Jane Sinner Hardcover – January 9, 2018
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From School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—After dropping out of high school in her senior year during her lowest emotional point, Jane Sinner is forced by her religious parents to enroll in community college to finish her credits. Armed with an acerbic wit and a desire to avoid living at home, Jane fudges a few details to compete in a Big Brother—style reality show at her community college. Along the way, she stirs up trouble for the camera, tries to figure out whom she can trust, and finds her true talents. This work 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. The protagonist is well developed; readers will enjoy rooting for her on House of Orange and in life. The narrative is mainly told through journal entries and script-style dialogue, and is sharp for a majority of the novel. However, Oelke's overreliance on these techniques at the expense of brevity makes the book long and repetitive by the end. VERDICT Purchase for teen libraries where realistic fiction is in high demand.—Susannah Goldstein, Bronx School for Law, Government, and Justice, NY
— 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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Overview: Jane wants to forget the past. Forget the high school that expelled her. Forget the people that watched her fall from grace. Forget her family who thinks that prayer is the answer to everything. Facing community college at Elbow River as a last resort graduation option, she signs up to be on House of Orange, a new web reality show, to solve her housing problem. Though she knows to expect the unexpected, House of Orange and its inhabitants test Jane in ways she never imagined. Maybe the year won't be as bad as she imagined. Overall: 5
Characters: 5 I LOVE Jane. There are very few main characters I can say that I appreciated more. Her sarcasm, dry humor, and outlook on life echoed my own thoughts, and I loved how she was so introspective. It is fascinating to listen to Jane work through her own thoughts and recognize her behaviors as masks for other feelings. I also thought that Oelke did a wonderful job with her depiction of Jane's clinical depression and how it impacts her life.
The supporting cast rounded out Jane's world. Her storyline with her sister was awesome, and her evolving relationship with her best friend Bonnie is a grounding element in the House of Orange chaos. Speaking of which, I was pleasantly surprised by the other contestants and their connections to Jane.
Plot: 5 I could not put the book down. It is very long, but some of that is how the book is formatted. The other part is just how much content is in the story. Just when you think the story will zig it zags, and at a certain point, you just stop guessing about what will happen and start reading double time to get there! Most of the time, I don't find books completely impossible to put down for their plot, but I had to keep reading late into the night, during food breaks, and even while I was hula hooping! The House of Orange is the real deal, even if you're not a reality TV addict.
Writing: 5 I loved Lianne Oelke's writing style. I also thought that the format she chose was inventive. The book is supposed to be Jane's journal, so the chapters are all dates. The dialogue is written in script format, which contribute to the length, but makes reading fun and easy. I'm really impressed with this whole book. I thought that I would love it, and yet I still totally underestimated the power it could pack with mental health, religious exploration, sisterhood, friendship, and, probably hardest to execute, reality TV.
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.
Most recent customer reviews
Genre: YA Contemporary
Recommended Age: 15+ (underage alcohol usage, sex, trigger warnings for suicide)