You have to feel for Sam Carrier. This highschool senior suffers from Tourette's syndrome, which makes him something of an outcast among his classmates. His step-dad, Old Bill, who has obsessive compulsive disorder, hates him and absolutely dotes on his half-brother. Sam believes he is worthless, the son his true father ran out on before he died. And then he meets a beautiful runner in the rain and everything begins to change.
Jerk, California is the debut novel of Jonathan Friesen and tells Sam's tale.
I wasn't sure how I was going to like this book. Those who have read this blog for a while know that I tend to gravitate toward the fantastic, straying from speculative fiction only if I know and enjoy an author (or if I got the book for free). But I had heard good things about Jerk, California, and so I decided to take a chance.
I'm glad I did. Friesen has a lyrical quality to his prose that drew me into Sam's story and really put me in his shoes. One of the interesting choices that Friesen made was to tell the story in the present tense. It lent an immediacy to what was happening throughout the story as Sam struggles with his condition and tries to learn who he truly is.
Another nice touch was the way Naomi, the perfect running girl, was presented. She drove Sam nuts throughout the book. She did the same to me. I had no idea what she was thinking half the time, and while I had a feeling I knew how the story was going to end, her portrayal seeded enough doubt in my mind that I was pleasantly surprised.
This definitely isn't your typical Christian novel. There's not a lot of preaching to it, no big spiritual decisions reached at any point, and there was a bit of foul language that took me by surprise but didn't ultimately bother me. But there is definitely a redemptive quality to Sam's journey, one that moved me.
So take a chance on a new author and see what it's like to run a mile in the shoes of J ... Sam.