by James Ryan Daley
Jonathan Stiles is a 14 year-old atheist who is coping with his first day of ninth grade at the fervently religious St. Soren's Academy when his idolized older brother Ryan is found dead at the bottom of a ravine behind the school. As his world crumbles, Jonathan meets an eccentric stranger who bears an uncanny resemblance to Jesus Christ (except for his white linen leisure suit and sparkling gold chains). Jesus Jackson, as he calls himself, offers to provide faith to Jonathan. He also suggests that Ryan s death may not have been an accident after all. Jonathan teams up with Henry, his new best friend at St. Soren s, to investigate. The two boys find footprints leading to the ravine that match Ryan s sneakers. They are assisted by Ryan s grieving girlfriend, Tristan, who also thinks the accident theory is bunk. The police, however, will not listen. But Jonathan knows something the police do not know: Shortly before his death, Ryan was doing cocaine with fellow footballer and number one suspect Alistair not far from the ravine where his body was found. An inspired Jonathan battles sanctimonious school psychologists, overzealous administrators, and a cavalry of Christian classmates on his quest to discover the truth about Ryan's death and about god, high school, and the meaning of life, while he's at it. But he keeps getting distracted by Cassie Alistair s quirky younger sister who holds the keys to the answers Jonathan is searching for, but who also makes him wonder if he should be searching for them at all."
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Jonathan Stiles is your typical 14 year old boy who idolized his older brother, Ryan. Growing up, Ryan convinced Jonathan that there is no god and that all religion was false. As Jonathan starts his first day of school as a freshman, Ryan is found dead at the bottom of a ravine behind the school. Jonathan is convinced that it's murder and the murderer is none other than the star of the football team, Alistair.
That day, Jonathan meets up with Jesus. Jesus Jackson that is. Jesus Jackson has an uncanny resemblance to Jesus Christ except he dresses like he came straight from the 1970's - white leisure suit and all. As Jesus learns that Jonathan is without faith in anything, he offers up his services by providing what Jonathan needs - restoring his faith.
And this is what this story is about (at least what I got out of it), finding faith to believe in something you can't see or touch. Just that feeling that there is something greater out there and we just have to believe - in something.
I think my most favorite quote of the book came from the part where Jesus tricked Jonathan into falling several feet from the bleachers. Although he came out of the incident unhurt, he asked Jesus what would have happened if he had gotten hurt. Jesus replied,
".....it was worth a shot. That taking a leap of faith is always worth a shot. After all, whether you land on your feet or fall on your face, at least you'll know what's on the other side. At least you'll know the truth."
Jesus Jackson was an absolute delight to read. The writing is flawless and the story line flowed smoothly. The only thing I did not like is the ending seemed a bit rushed or perhaps I just didn't want the story to end. Either way, this was a touching and meaningful story that will make the reader think outside the box and provide some entertainment along the way. Give this one a shot...you won't be disappointed.
A special thanks to Poisoned Pen Press for providing me with an Uncorrected Proof of Jesus Jackson in exchange for an honest review.
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
About the Author
Hi. I'm James. I’m a writer, editor, and designer of various paper-based and digital things. Since finishing my MFA at the Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2004, I’ve been spending most of my time teaching writing to college students, creating websites about video games, and writing mystery novels about pensive young ne’erdowells. When I’m not obsessively poring over pixels and pronouns, I can usually be found arguing with strangers on the Internet or seeking out adventure with my indomitable wife and two indefatigable daughters.
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