• Review
By – January 19, 2012
This is an edgy young adult nov­el that focus­es on the alien­ation teenagers feel as they enter high school. The major char­ac­ter is Jupiter, a fif­teen-year-old Russ­ian émi­gré. Although he has been in the Amer­i­can school sys­tem since kinder­garten, his for­eign” sta­tus great­ly affects how he per­ceives his place in the world around him. Jupiter comes from the Yards,” the poor­est neigh­bor­hood in the area. Up until now, he has been incon­spic­u­ous, but his high school years cause him to increase his pro­file and con­front cer­tain real­i­ties. As with all teenagers, he must also cope with his par­ents, who are strug­gling to make ends meet and who are decid­ed­ly not cool.” To com­pli­cate mat­ters, they want Jupiter to help them in their fac­to­ry work at a time when he is try­ing to social­ly inte­grate into his high school class. 

At school, Jupiter is quick­ly tar­get­ed by Bates, an out of con­trol teen who tries to harm him at every turn. The boy’s first response is to try to avoid con­tact with Bates by hang­ing out” with anoth­er Russ­ian boy named Vadim, a com­put­er genius. How­ev­er, Vadim is look­ing for his own accep­tance among oth­ers like him­self and he shuns Jupiter’s over­tures. The author devel­ops sev­er­al oth­er char­ac­ters, each one designed to rep­re­sent a cer­tain teenage type. There is Sajit, the gay young man, who is well informed and quite wise about the inter­ac­tions of his own age group. We are also intro­duced to Devin, the pop­u­lar girl, who is the cen­ter of a group who val­ues her skills with boys and hangs on her every word. Oth­er char­ac­ters affect Jupiter’s life: Crash, a boy from a very wealthy fam­i­ly, and Margie, the girl­friend of a gang leader. 

Jupiter explores his own sex­u­al­i­ty and then helps anoth­er boy to deal with his. He seeks out the music scene and decides how he fits into that world. After devel­op­ing some friend­ships with boys, Jupiter search­es for a girl­friend, which yields mixed results. He tries to save his par­ents and him­self from being evict­ed by using his peer con­nec­tions. And, final­ly, as he reach­es a kind of peace with who he is, Jupiter is able to be himself. 

The author has a good ear for teen lan­guage and makes the sit­u­a­tion­al vignettes real­is­tic. The end­ing of the sto­ry is sat­is­fy­ing and helps the read­er to see that behind the pos­tur­ing that teenagers engage in, they cope with real chal­lenges and need one another’s sup­port. For ages l4 – up.

Read Matthue’s Posts for the Vis­it­ing Scribe

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Jews, Non-Jews, and Being Losers Together

Marge Kaplan is a retired Eng­lish as a Sec­ond Lan­guage teacher. She is a con­sul­tant for the children’s lit­er­a­ture group for the Roseville, MN school sys­tem and is a sto­ry­teller of Jew­ish tales.

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