cover image The Edumacation of Jay Baker

The Edumacation of Jay Baker

Jay Clark. Holt/Ottaviano, $16.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-8050-9256-1

Clark debuts with a pop culture–filled narrative that never quite finds a middle ground between its tendency toward cutesiness and an earnest plot revolving around teen love, broken families, and alcoholism. Fifteen-year-old Jay, driven by a crush on his best friend, cheerleader and American Idol hopeful Cameo, is running for class president in order to impress her. After a number of frustrating turns (ranging from an embarrassing debate to the discovery that his mother has been having an affair with Cameo’s father), Jay winds up in detention with Caroline, an attractive new girl. Soon they are going out, but the family troubles don’t stop for either of them, as Jay’s parents head toward divorce and Caroline’s mother contends with alcoholism. Clark gives Jay an engaging voice, but one that seldom feels natural; his overuse of silly words— “D-bomb” (for divorce), “jizzorgeous,” etc.—drags the story line down at the wrong moments without adding anything substantial. It’s a good if not groundbreaking story that is let down by overwriting. Ages 12–up. Agent: Trident Media Group. (Jan.)