The Edumacation of Jay Baker
Like most high school freshman, Jay Baker is sarcastic, hormone-driven, and full of teenage angst. He’s semi in love with his best friend, Cameo “Appearance” Parnell (talk to her parents about her name). He is constantly tormented by his nemesis, Mike Hibbard, often for no apparent reason. Jay also likes to trade barbs with his favorite teacher, Ms. Lambert, and he’s just not sure what to make of the new girl, Caroline “the-tennis-player” Richardson. Even with all of these normal teenager distractions, Jay is completely shocked to find out that his parents have decided to separate for an “undetermined period of time.”
"THE EDUMACATION OF JAY BAKER has something for everyone, and hopefully you’ll emerge smarter for having read it."
An “undetermined period of time” seems suspicious to Jay, and although he helps move his mother into her new temporary trailer-home, he’s still holding out hope that his mom and dad will work things out. In the midst of this new peril, Jay and Cameo finally decide to take their friendship to the next level. Sadly, it comes crashing down once Jay finds out that his mom has been cheating on his father with Cameo’s dad. Talk about a reality show gone horribly wrong. Jay and Cameo find themselves immediately at odds with one another, and Jay begins to realize his mother isn’t the perfect person he thought she was.
As Jay’s mom begins regular visitations with Mr. Parnell, Jay’s dad also starts bringing home his own lady friend. Now with apparently no one on his side, Jay decides to find help in some of the most unexpected places. Jay and his older sister, Abby, decide to unite forces and not be caught in the middle of their parents’ spat. Jay also confides in Ms. Lambert and finds solace in his high school’s lonely hallways. Finally, Jay and Caroline start practicing their tennis moves regularly. And isn’t it convenient that the word “Love” appears so frequently in the game?
Most people think schools are the main institution by which a person becomes educated. In Jay Baker’s case, he doesn’t need to get educated. He needs to get edumacated. Life isn’t always going to be the perfect ending you see in movies or read in books. It will throw some real curve balls at you, or some huge bombshells if you’re Jay Baker. Will Jay rise to the occasion and overcome his precarious position in life, or will he become life’s punching bag and not know what hit him?
Despite his unfortunate position, there’s a lot to admire in the character of Jay Baker. He has a witty verbal retort for just about anything, and life would be more fun if I sounded half as clever as him in all my conversations. He finds solace in the people he’s close to when many people in the same position would normally close themselves off from others. And let’s face it, some of the best and often hardest lessons you learn in life aren’t from classroom assignments or boring textbooks. THE EDUMACATION OF JAY BAKER has something for everyone, and hopefully you’ll emerge smarter for having read it.
Reviewed by Benjamin Boche on February 29, 2012