Monday, August 12, 2013

Review: Living with Jackie Chan by Jo Knowles

Title: Living with Jackie Chan (Jumping Off Swings #2)
Author: Jo Knowles
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Release date: September 10th 2013
Pages: 384
Genre: Young Adult contemporary
Source: BEA - I received a free advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!
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This isn’t how Josh expected to spend senior year. He thought he’d be hanging out with his best friends, Dave and Caleb, driving around, partying, just like always. But here he is, miles from home — new school, new life, living with his Jackie-Chan-obsessed uncle, Larry, and trying to forget. But Josh can’t forget. So many things bring back memories of last year and the night that changed everything. Every day the pain, the shame, and the just not knowing are never far from his thoughts. Why is he such a loser? How could he have done what he did? He finds some moments of peace when he practices karate with Stella, the girl upstairs and his one real friend. As they move together through the katas, Josh feels connected in a way he has never felt before. He wonders if they could be more than friends, but Stella’s jealous boyfriend will make sure that doesn’t happen. And maybe it doesn’t matter. If Stella knew the truth, would she still think he was a True Karate Man?
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Jo Knowles is one of my all-time favorite authors, and she's proven why with Living with Jackie Chan. Jumping Off Swings was my favorite of Knowles's books, so I was ecstatic when I heard that we would get to revisit one of Jumping Off Swings's main characters in this companion novel. And while I didn't love it quite as much as Jumping Off Swings, Living with Jackie Chan is another great one from Jo Knowles!

The writing is always what's best about Jo Knowles's novels, and Living with Jackie Chan is no exception. Jo Knowles can create an atmosphere like no other - no matter what the theme, I feel like I could just burst out crying any second, because the words always convey such strong emotions. For most of the novel, though, I didn't even know if I wanted to cry out of sadness or out of happiness - Jo Knowles's writing is full of ALL OF THE FEELINGS. I don't even know what it is about the writing, but it's so full of THINGS, of life, and it simultaneously makes me want to cry and never stop, and hug everyone in my proximity. So basically, it turns me into a crazy person. In a good way. (Sorry about the incoherence. This is what Jo Knowles DOES TO ME, OKAY!!?)

I was a little disappointed when I heard that not all of the characters I loved in Jumping Off Swings would be returning as narrators, but now that I've read the novel, I really appreciate seeing only Josh live in another town, with different people. Because these people are awesome. Josh is living with his uncle Larry, who is kind of a nutcase, but a very lovable one at that. I really liked the developments in the family storyline. And then there's Stella, whom I loved. I could see some readers being disappointed by the lack of romance, but I for one loved Josh's and Stella's relationship just like this. I really appreciated the focus on friendship in this novel. Anyways, I loved the cast of characters in Living with Jackie Chan - they're all fully-developed and engaging.

I'm not sure what to say about the plot, because there really isn't that much of a plot; this is a very character-driven novel. I could see some readers having a problem with this - you could definitely complain that nothing happens. There really isn't much of one set topic, but I really liked it that way; this is simply Josh's story, evolving naturally instead of creating drama for the reader, something I really appreciated.

This is a must-read for fans of Jumping Off Swings. And if you haven't read Jumping Off Swings - along with the rest of Jo Knowles's novels - WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR LIFE??? Read them all. Now. Anyways. With evocative, atmospheric writing and flawed and relatable characters, Living with Jackie Chan is an honest and emotional story of learning to love your family, your friends, and yourself. 


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