Nice Try, Jane Sinner by Lianne Oelke
Published by Clarion Books on January 9, 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction, Health, Mental Health, Young Adult
Length: 420 pages Source: Gift from Family
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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.
My brother got me this book for my birthday, because he read it and it’s one of his favorite books ever. He loves it with a fiery passion and I’m so happy about that, because my brother has never been a heavy reader. For myself, I am not quite so in love with Jane, though I did enjoy reading the book.
I find Jane Sinner, as a character, frustrating. She’s selfish and destructive. In many ways, that works well but as a reader there were times I had difficulty connecting with her as a character, because she is so intentionally off-putting. In this way, though, Jane is a real person. She doesn’t know what she’s doing and she scared about it, but rather than facing that in a healthy way, she gets angry and vengeful and hurtful to others. She takes pride manipulation, and occasionally seems to forget that the world doesn’t revolve around her. So… real.
The formatting of the book is that it’s being told by Jane through the medium of her journal. This includes conversations in script format and general descriptions and asides. The dialogue flows so quickly and so well that I found my mind wandering when I hit a block of text. Being inside Jane’s head was exhausting for me, and I think that contributed to my dislike of her as a character. That said, within the format this was written really well. It’s easy to take a journal format and ramble – Lianne keeps to the plot.
For the most part, the story is about Jane trying to find something worth living for. She joins the House of Orange local reality TV show because she wants to get away from her family and also wine car. While on the show, she becomes a queen of manipulation, which makes awesome television. She has her ups and downs on the show, but she makes it her life, her “something I’ve got to do”, which gives her enough drive to get out of her slump and live. Just a little. There are high moments for Jane, and there are low moments, I appreciate both. While I am personally not one for reality shows (they just make me mad) I’ve never read that format being used in this context and I thought it made the plot very interesting.
All in all, Nice Try, Jane Sinner is an entertaining book. The details are what I liked the best – Jane purposefully getting idioms wrong, the McNugz Club, Jane’s sister Carol trying to suck up to their parents by making a valiant effort at a cake… those sorts of things. They gave the book a certain lovable quirk and we’re fun.
I think that fans of YA Contemporary will like this book. It isn’t sappy, but it’s different and takes on its own life. Honestly, I think I’d recommend it to anyone who liked snarky teens and reality shows and characters that are a mess. 🙂
Nice Try, Jane Sinner stays on the shelf!
Honestly, I don’t know that this will be a Forever book, but I think I would read it again. It’s entirely possible that I will fall more in love with it after another read. After that, we’ll see if it stays indefinitely.