Confessions of a Teenage Jesus Jerk
Tony DuShane. Soft Skull Press, $14.95 (214pp) ISBN 978-1-59376-263-6
DuShane's debut novel unfolds within the insular world of Jehovah's Witnesses, following a teenager's coming of age within the strict rules of a widely known but little explored sect. Gabe is in many ways a typical California teenager: attending public high school, lusting after female classmates, and enjoying hacky sack with his best friend, Peter. At the same time, he is preoccupied with thoughts of Armageddon, and whether or not masturbating will keep him from being resurrected at the end of the world. Gabe wrestles genuinely with his faith-both embarrassed and deeply committed. As pre-pubescence gives way to young adulthood, Gabe, his troubled (non-Jehovah) cousin Karen, his high school crush Jasmine, and Peter find their moral dilemmas taking on serious dimensions, eventually leading to a tragedy that profoundly alters Gabe's understanding of faith. As a former practitioner, DuShane writes with an insider's perspective about this unique world, balancing criticism with understanding and a convincing portrait of the struggle to integrate religion into a modern world, producing an ultimately touching story that will speak to atheists and believers alike.
Reviewed on: 01/18/2010