5. Jerk California by Jonathan Friesen
When I first started college, this book was suggested to me be the head of the disabilities office. He figured that with my love of reading and understanding of different disorders, I would enjoy this book. A few months later, the author Jonathan Friesen came to speak at our college. This was a wonderful and inspiring experience. There I bought a book and had him sign it for me. Now, I can pick up this novel when I feel abandoned, misunderstood, or worthless.
Synopsis: An outcast at school and home, Sam Carrier struggles each day with his Tourette syndrome. Longing to have a normal life and be with Naomi, the girl of his dreams, he tries to fit in but always is pushed away. When his only friend, an older man named George, dies, Sam gains the courage to go on a trip to discover the truth about himself and his father. Along the way, he gains insight into his past, hope for the future, and strong relationships that last.
Recovery Pluses: This book is not only inspiring but also a honest eye-opening look at Tourette syndrome. Jonathan Friesen, the author, suffers with this disorder himself which adds to the depth of the book. Instead of shying away from difficult content, this novel faces it harshly but touchingly. Even if you or a loved one do not suffer with Tourette syndrome, the themes of trying to fit in, depression, and self-acceptance are universal. Through the novel, Sam discovers who he is outside of his diagnosis. Any person who has been labeled as their illness will be able to relate to this struggle.
Along with raising awareness, this book also reminds those suffering that they are not alone. No matter what is plaguing you, there is hope for the future. Sam is abused and broken in the beginning of the novel. By the end, he is starting to heal and see a light in his future. This journey is depicted in a raw gradual way.
Cautions: Because of the bullying and unkindness that Sam is shown, this book can be a difficult read at parts. The beginning is probably the worst. Language is scattered throughout the novel as well as a little bit of suggestive content. A young woman dates an older man and becomes pregnant. Overall, the mature theme of this book make it unsuitable for younger children but appropriate for teenagers and adults.
An intriguing look at Tourette syndrome, Jerk California is a mixture of wittiness, raw pain, and overshadowed hope. Although I struggled to get through the rough beginning, the rest of the book made it worth the saddening start. Romance, exploration, and mystery all mix together in this unique and heartfelt novel. Thus, I would not only recommend it to those who struggle with or know someone who struggles with Tourette syndrome; I think all people would benefit from this story of understanding oneself and searching for a better future despite disabilities.
- Jerk California on Jonathan Friesen’s website
- Trailer for Jerk California on Youtube
- Jerk California on Amazon