Published by Clarion Books on January 9th 2018
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Young Adult Fiction
FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley. All opinions are my own.
If you’re looking for a fun and fresh read to start the new year off right, I’d like to highly recommend Lianne Oelke’s Nice Try, Jane Sinner. Nice Try, Jane Sinner follows the life of main character, Jane Sinner, a 17 year old who has just gone through a personal crisis, a crisis that has actually led to her being expelled from high school just shy of her graduation.
When the novel opens, Jane is at a loss. Her friends are in their senior year of high school and getting ready to graduate and go to college, while Jane is on the sidelines. Her friends keep trying to include her in school activities, but it just leads to endless awkward moments because everyone now only thinks of her as the girl from ‘the Incident.’ Jane is desperate to reinvent herself so when her parents push her enroll in a high school completion program at the nearby Elbow River Community College, Jane agrees – on one condition. The only way she will attend the program is if her parents agree to let her move out on her own. Jane’s parents aren’t totally excited about the idea but desperate to help her get back on her feet again, they agree.
Jane secures housing for herself by signing up to participate in House of Orange, which is a student-run reality TV show that is basically Big Brother, but for Elbow River Students. At first, House of Orange is just a means to an end — i.e. the rent is cheap. But as the competition gets under way and the show’s audience grows, Jane’s competitive nature kicks in and she begins to see House of Orange as a way to reinvent herself. She can be a winner and prove to herself (and of course everyone else) that she is not just the girl from ‘the Incident.’
The main character Jane Sinner was, by far, my favorite part of this novel. Jane drew me in right away with her hilarious brand of dry humor. It especially cracked me up the way she drove her dad crazy by intentionally using common idioms improperly: “You’re meowing up the wrong tree,” “I’m trying to turn over a new silver lining,” etc. I could practically feel his eyes roll every time she did it, and it made me laugh out loud several times as I was reading, as did the full blown psychotherapy sessions she conducted in her head throughout the story. Jane is a funny girl, no doubt about it!
What appealed to me most about Jane though was that underneath of all that humor, she has a lot going on. She’s a complex and very realistically drawn character and it turns out that a lot of her humor is actually a coping mechanism that she uses to deal with some pretty major issues that she is going through, including depression. Yes, in addition to being a hilarious and entertaining book about living in a Big Brother-style reality TV house, Nice Try, Jane Sinner also delves into some more serious and important topics, such as mental health. To that end, even more so than her humor, I came to admire Jane’s spunk and her determination to reinvent herself and make the most of the second chance she has been given. That’s not to say that she is perfect either. She is most definitely a flawed character who makes plenty of mistakes along the way, but that just adds to her overall appeal because who doesn’t make mistakes?
Aside from Jane herself, I also really enjoyed the college setting. It doesn’t seem like there are many books out there that really capture college life and all that it entails. (I’m sure there are others, but Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl is the only one that comes to mind at the moment). I love books that focus on this time in a young adult’s life because I think it’s something we can all relate to – that defining moment when we’re turning 18 and starting out on our own, trying to define ourselves independently, and out from under our parents’ rules, etc. I know, for me, that was a messy time so it definitely made sense to me why Jane wanted to be out on her own, no matter what she had to do to make it happen.
I’m not even going to call these dislikes, more like just a couple of places that gave me pause as I was reading.
Journal Format: Overall, I think the journal format is fabulous in that it is unique and because with the way the dialogue is presented, in a script-like format, it makes for a quick-paced read. I also loved being in Jane’s head and seeing all of her innermost thoughts. I found it a very effective way to present this kind of story. That said, however, and this is just probably a nitpick/personal quirk with me, but I’m always a little confused when I see entire conversations recounted in what is supposed to be a journal. Do people who keep journals actually jot down conversations? I didn’t dwell on it too much and ultimately decided “It’s Jane’s journal. She can write whatever the heck she wants to in it” but I’ll admit thinking about that did distract me a little as I was reading.
Secondary Characters: Again, this is just me because I always enjoy getting to know secondary characters almost as much as I enjoy following the main character, but I definitely would have liked to learn a little more about some of the other students Jane interacted with throughout the novel. We barely scratched the surface when it came to Jane’s housemates and Alexander Park, the student who is the mastermind behind the whole House of Orange project. The few details we got were great, but they left me wanting to know more.
I went into Nice Try, Jane Sinner expecting a fluffy and entertaining read about trying to attend college while simultaneously taking part in a reality TV series. The reality (no pun intended) is that I got so much more than that. Yes, it is an often hilarious read filled with reality TV-style pranks and shenanigans, but, more importantly, it is a moving read because of its focus on Jane’s mental health and second chances. Nice Try, Jane Sinner shows readers that although the road to recovery is often difficult, it is definitely possible.
Thanks to Netgalley, Clarion Books, and of course, Lianne Oelke for allowing me to read and review this book on my blog in exchange for an honest review. This in no way impacts my review.
The only thing 17-year-old Jane Sinner hates more than failure is pity. After a personal crisis and her subsequent expulsion from high school, she’s going nowhere fast. Jane’s well-meaning parents push her to attend a high school completion program at the nearby Elbow River Community College, and she agrees, on one condition: she gets to move out.
Jane tackles her housing problem by signing up for House of Orange, a student-run reality show that is basically Big Brother, but for Elbow River Students. Living away from home, the chance to win a car (used, but whatever), and a campus full of people who don’t know what she did in high school… what more could she want? Okay, maybe a family that understands why she’d rather turn to Freud than Jesus to make sense of her life, but she’ll settle for fifteen minutes in the proverbial spotlight.
As House of Orange grows from a low-budget web series to a local TV show with fans and shoddy T-shirts, Jane finally has the chance to let her cynical, competitive nature thrive. She’ll use her growing fan base, and whatever Intro to Psychology can teach her, to prove to the world—or at least viewers of substandard TV—that she has what it takes to win.
Formats: Hardcover, eBook
3 winners will receive a finished copy of NICE TRY JANE SINNER, US Only.
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