cover image Coaltown Jesus

Coaltown Jesus

Ron Koertge. Candlewick, $16.99 (128p) ISBN 978-0-7636-6228-8

Writing in free verse, Koertge (Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses) shows how a personal relationship with Jesus aids a guilt-stricken 14-year-old. It isn’t just a turn of phrase—Jesus actually manifests in Walker’s bedroom after the boy makes a desperate prayer on behalf of his grieving mother. Walker thinks he’s going crazy (no one else can see Jesus, though his laughter can shake a building), yet their irreverently funny conversations begin to help in ways that readers will gradually pick up on. Koertge’s Jesus is one who considers a smile to be something holy and who tells Walker, “There are limit to even my miracles,” when the teen asks to become a better basketball player. “In the Bible, you’re always so serious,” Walker says. “You’re serious enough for both of us,” Jesus responds. Koertge parcels out details about Noah’s death, and the question of “why” looms over the story, as does the idea that God helps those who help themselves. It’s a fast read, but one with substance—the conversations linger, and the healing that takes place is subtle. Ages 14–up. (Oct.)