Foreword Reviews - - Spotlight Religion Books—children’s / Young Adult - NANCY POW­ELL

Erica Sage, Sky Pony Press (JUNE) Hard­cover $16.99 (280pp), 978-1-5107-3005-2

Set over five days in the life of a death-ob­sessed teenager, Jacked Up is a snappy and clever com­ing-of-age story.

Jack Ker­ouac’s ghost has fol­lowed gram­marsnob Nick ever since his Ker­ouac-lov­ing sis­ter, Diana, com­mit­ted sui­cide. His par­ents de­cide to ship Nick off to a week-long re­treat at Camp Eden Springs, a desert “Bi­ble Dis­ney­land” in which “hap­pi­ness hap­pens,” so that he can deal with his grief. Nick quickly be­comes the os­tra­cized loner blamed for the theft of the camp’s prayers and con­fes­sions box. The con­fes­sions be­gin to go pub­lic, spurring Nick to find the missing box and re­trieve his own con­fes­sion about his role in Diana’s death be­fore the se­cret gets out. But can Nick find the box in time to save him­self and Natalie, the girl he loves?

Frank ob­ser­va­tions are made about the melo­dra­mas that con­sume the so­cial lives of teens. Ker­ouac func­tions as a com­pas­sion­ate jerk, truth-seeker, and mad­man, haunted by his per­sonal demons. Nick and Natalie are also po­si­tioned as mad for their in­se­cu­ri­ties and their re­luc­tance to em­brace life.

Nick and Natalie mock the hypocrisies of born-again evan­ge­lism. Through them, Sage plays reli­gious ve­nal­i­ties for laughs while reach­ing for some­thing deeper with her teenage au­di­ence, es­pe­cially con­cern­ing ho­mo­pho­bia.

Is­sues of youth ac­tivism, guns, metham­phetamine abuse, and gen­der iden­tity also ap­pear. This kitchen-sink ap­proach suc­ceeds thanks to well-con­structed di­a­logue. The book does not of­fer pre­scrip­tive fixes, but rather a ther­a­peu­tic safe space in which to dis­cuss the var­i­ous hopes, fears, and doubts that teens have.

Jacked Up cel­e­brates liv­ing life on an in­di­vid­ual’s terms—ac­cept­ing flaws, fac­ing fears, mov­ing be­yond stereo­types, and reach­ing out to oth­ers.

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