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10th Grade

10th Grade

3.8 13
by Joseph Weisberg, Joe Weisberg

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Jeremiah Reskin has big plans for tenth grade—he wants to make some friends and he wants to take a girl’s shirt off. It’s not going too well at first, but when he meets a group of semibohemian outcasts, things start to change. Soon he’s negotiating his way through group back rubs and trying to find the courage to make a move on Renee Shopmaker


Jeremiah Reskin has big plans for tenth grade—he wants to make some friends and he wants to take a girl’s shirt off. It’s not going too well at first, but when he meets a group of semibohemian outcasts, things start to change. Soon he’s negotiating his way through group back rubs and trying to find the courage to make a move on Renee Shopmaker, the hottest girl in school. At the behest of his composition teacher, Jeremy’s also chronicling everything in his own novel—a disastrously ungrammatical but unflinching look at sophomore year.

Editorial Reviews

Maureen McLane

Ah, to be a young teen in the suburbs in the '80s. Hanging out in friends' basements, listening to excruciating music; wondering whether to smoke that joint, and if so, how; mangling the verb "ir" in Spanish class. Chicago native Joseph Weisberg strikes these and many other notes in his sweetly rollicking first novel, whose hero, Jeremy Reskin, offers us an intermittently punctuated and sometimes agrammatical account of his sentimental education.

First-person teen narratives must contend not only with the ghost of Holden Caulfield but with the more recent specters of adolescents conjured by many memoirists. A novelist treading this territory runs many risks: the risk of being too cute, too knowing, too familiar, too programmatic. Given the endless parade of books, TV shows and movies on teen themes, a writer may find himself being unwittingly boring or gratuitously shocking. Weisberg navigates this field with great humor and a certain aplomb; he presents his Jeremy as writing, not speaking, his story, and while Weisberg doesn't do much with the writerly conceit, it does allow him greater latitude for exploring and exploiting the cliche-ridden awkwardness of adolescent expression, exacerbated by the bizarre writing rituals we force upon high schoolers ("I'm starting right before the beginning. That way you'll get to know some of the main characters like my parents and my 2 sisters even though they're not really the main main characters.").

It's a marvel that Weisberg's chosen limitation, this first-person narrator, doesn't usually cloy. This opening, by the way, is not typical of the range of Weisberg's style, which is generally not too self-referential and rarely faux-naif. As the novel progresses, it becomes clear that Jeremy's voice is its necessary comic, decent anchor.

Teen heroes usually bear a double burden. They are meant to be both typical and special--Everyman with a large dose of American individualism and exceptionalism. That many teens speak a jargon only partly intelligible to those younger and older makes the problem of first-person novelistic expression even more vivid: Do you go with teenspeak, gesture toward it, avoid it? How do you render a sensibility that is by definition immature?

While reading the novel, I worried that it might be caught between the categories of young-adult and unmarked--that is, adult--literary fiction; novels from "Huckleberry Finn" to "The Catcher in the Rye" have been thus caught, wrongly. It would be interesting to compare Jeremy's ruminations about his parents, sisters, teachers, love (or sex) objects, with those of, say, Judy Blume's heroes. Blume addresses herself brilliantly and sympathetically to young adolescents; Weisberg clearly addresses those who remember, ruefully, their adolescent fumblings. What makes this novel appealing to adults is the panache with which Weisberg signals the benign limits and sure strengths of his narrator.

Jeremy lives in the New Jersey suburb of Hutch Falls, plays soccer, goes to class, eats dinner with his family, hangs out with friends, pines for the new girl, visits New York City, ponders sex and goes to the prom. Not terribly exciting stuff, but middle-class teen life need not be about obvious excitement. The energy here comes from the tilt of Jeremy's mind and expression: his relative openness to weird kids, his swift characterizations, his combination of sympathy and satire.

Weisberg has gotten certain things just right: the elliptical, hugely significant exchanges between laconic boys and ruminative girls; the rapid-fire, genially insulting patter among friends; the razor-sharp and razor-thin edges of adolescent social classification; the attachment of teens to certain objects and habits; the alien glamor of New York City, blacks and gays for the liberal, white, suburban teen; the bemused fondness of a basically happy child for his parents; the obsessional loops of the adolescent mind.

Several passages made me laugh out loud. Jeremy's formulaic, botched exchanges with his object of desire, Renee Shopmaker, in Spanish class, are especially good. His foray into the world of pornographic magazines is hilarious and fresh and surprising; so too are the descriptions of family dinners. Weisberg provides great set-pieces throughout the book: a convincing riff, complete with excerpts, on the impenetrability of Shakespeare's language; the annual visit to dad's tailor on the Lower East Side; Jeremy's attempt to cook a Nigerian dish to fulfill a class assignment (in a chapter called "The Banana Maloosa Fiasco"); a trip to the mall with his sister and mother.

There is something very delicate amidst all the comedy. Jeremy's assessments of his sisters and parents are sharp and generous. The largely unspoken solidarity between him and his younger sister is wonderfully dramatized, for example when she picks out the right slacks for him to wear on a date. One measure of Weisberg's confident, subtle handling of this material is the way we understand what Jeremy registers and what he fails to register--the romantic signals of his friend Gillian, for example. Weisberg has a particular knack for getting down the feel of human exchanges that tend toward what is called the phatic function: those exchanges in which what matters is not what people are saying to each other but that they are talking companionably together (Think bonobo monkeys happily grooming one another: The contact is more important than the content.). So it doesn't matter that Jeremy doesn't quite pay attention to his father's elaborate description of his current legal case. What does matter is that the man and his son are able to sustain, genially, a conversation that acknowledges both of their vivid lives, however opaque they may sometimes be to each other.

Despite its clear social and pop-cultural coordinates, this is by no means a social-issues novel. Its world is as wide and as narrow as Jeremy's consciousness. There is nothing terribly special about Jeremy's year, nothing too special about Jeremy. He seems to be a kind of Jimmy Stewart figure--or perhaps the kind of guy who might have been played by a very young Tom Hanks. Jeremy is neither rebellious nor excessively conformist; he is an absorptive, reflective but not terribly talkative young man. He is not alienated; he is simply, thoughtfully, en route: occasionally obtuse, more usually alert, sometimes misunderstanding himself and his associates and yet somehow wholly himself.

This is in its own way an extremely modest novel, and I mean that as praise. Like his hero, Weisberg rarely shows off. He does not score points through or off his characters. He is a gentle comic concerned to illuminate small, oblique movements of consciousness as well as the social comedy of everyday life.

Jeremy's occasional flights into fantasy--in which he punches out an adversary, has hot sex with Renee after rescuing her from danger, and so on--seem to me the weakest link in the book. The conceit is good, the execution less so: We lose track of the distinctiveness of Jeremy's voice, its speaking tone. I wondered, too, whether such episodes--a few paragraphs now and then, at first integrated into the narrative but later less so--were inspired by the more-experimental moments in TV shows like "Ally McBeal," in which characters' thoughts and fantasies are sometimes briefly enacted. In "10th Grade," these episodes have a TV--or, more precisely, a cinematic--feel. They might work as movie sequences, but their longer elaborations don't do much for the novel.

A novel like this can (or should) be written only once in a career. I suspect that the winning ingenuousness here could not be repeated without something going stale. It will be interesting to see if this book turns out to have launched Weisberg's career as a novelist. Whether or not he continues, Weisberg has written a charming, utterly American first novel.
Maureen McLane is a fellow at the Harvard University Society of Fellows, a poet and the author of "Romanticism and the Human Sciences

Publishers Weekly
Weisberg touches plenty of familiar bases in this pedestrian debut novel, a coming-of-age affair that tracks protagonist Jeremy Reskin's second year of high school in the vanilla New Jersey suburb of Hurst Falls. Jeremy is a bright, reasonably popular and athletic adolescent who plays soccer, gets decent grades and has an ordinary family life with two sisters, a penny-pinching but well-meaning lawyer father and housewife mom. The plot weaves around the arrival of a sexy new classmate, Renee Shopmaker, who quickly touches Jeremy's heart after she becomes his dialogue partner in Spanish class. But it takes the entire narrative for Jeremy even to consider the possibility of seriously dating Renee, something he muses about during their final conversation after each winds up with a different date at the prom. In between, Jeremy spends his time dealing with the semiromantic friendship of a serious, rather melodramatic girl named Gillian until their potential relationship peters out just before the prom. Weisberg captures the essence of adolescent stream-of-consciousness in Jeremy's narration, and he sensitively presents the usual array of coming-of-age scenes, including Jeremy's sexual initiation, a bonding trip to New York with his dad, his exploits with the soccer team and his first foray into the world of drugs and alcohol. But the absence of any romantic developments between Jeremy and Renee makes the ordinary scenes seem all the more bland; the result is a decent novel of character with little to distinguish it from the raft of genre fodder. Weisberg is a solid storyteller who knows his way around his characters, but he'll need some stronger plot lines to build on this debut novel. (Jan.22) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Hutch Falls, New Jersey is the suburban backdrop for the first-person narrative of Jeremy Reskin, high school sophomore, soccer player, and authentic teen voice. We meet Jeremy's clan and are treated to intimate details like sister Claire's first period and Dad's passion for reading, noting the use of the verb "krepitating." We're off to an adolescent's obsession with human anatomy and his desires for sexual encounters. Foul language and irreverent slang seem age-appropriate, as does the absence of respect for grammar and punctuation. In dialogue, the most annoying example of this is Jeremy's use of "1" to mean "one." I can appreciate his clever use of terms like VTS (very true statements) and the constant references to current music, movies and the vernacular, placing this book in the right now, year 2000. Whether readers are looking back at 10th grade or are enrolled in the second year of high school today, the humorous and poignant observations in this story ring true. I like Jeremy's misguided tours: of the mall which his dad calls a "vacuum cleaner for money," the porn shops, and the visit to New York City, where they find themselves standing opposite the World Trade Center. I feel for Jeremy's misunderstanding of his schoolwork and the females in his life, but both are crucial to moving the plot and watching our hero mature. 10th Grade has its dramatic and serious moments, like the lives of its participants, and high school readers will enjoy and identify with this funny tale. KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2002, Random House, 259p.,
— Nancy Zachary
Library Journal
This may be Weisberg's first novel, but he's got connections and maybe the right genes: brother Jacob (In Defense of Government) is also a Random author. Here, protagonist Jeremy navigates the ever-changing alliances of tenth grade. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Weisberg's debut chronicles a high school sophomore's life in the first-person, with obvious echoes of The Catcher in the Rye.
From the Publisher
“offers its reader a knowing glimpse into the mind and life of a young man alertly immersed in the early high school years. This wonderfully humorous account will be a gift to students, parents, and teachers across the country.”
—Robert Coles, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Crisis

“10th Grade brims with wicked wit and style. The characters materialize like long-lost friends and crushes—and enemies—from high school.”
—Ben Sherwood, author of The Man Who Ate the 747

“is a sly, often hilarious novel featuring an absolutely credible fifteen-year-old narrator in a tale that is irresistibly readable, hugely winning, and resonates far beyond the adolescent world it portrays.”
—Jennifer Egan, author of Look at Me

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
1 ED
Product dimensions:
5.78(w) x 8.56(h) x 1.03(d)

Read an Excerpt


I’m starting right before the beginning. That way you’ll get to know some of the main characters like my parents and my 2 sisters even though they’re not really the main main characters. Anyway I don’t know if you’ve ever been on a camping trip in a National Park or anyplace like that so let me describe The Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming where it’s the end of summer. Believe me it gets very very dark there darker than in Hutch Falls or wherever you live because there aren’t any houses with lights and stuff and you’re surrounded by all the stars they’re talking about when they talk about there being billions of stars. And craters in the moon. Also the moon gets really low when you’re out there almost like it’s right over your head.

So picture this it’s a night like that but even darker it’s so dark we can see everything up there but not much down on the ground except our tents which were in our basement non-stop for about 2 years since the last time we used them and are glowing the color orange now because of the lanterns inside. So we can see them. And the tents are glowing and I swear it looks like we’re just floating out in the middle of space right in the middle of all the stars and planets and other stuff out there which in a sort of cosmic way I guess we are.

All the main characters in my family are here including my Dad my Mom and Claire and Beth (my 2 sisters). My Mom and Claire and Beth are inside 1 of the tents they’re whispering then laughing then sort of laugh-whispering you can see them moving from outside like shapes.My Dad’s with me by the campfire which by the way is burned out and he keeps getting up and walking around he’s wearing what he wears camping which is this blue mesh undershirt he thinks is the greatest undershirt ever yellow shorts black socks pulled up high and this is the worst a pair of old black dress shoes he used to wear to work.

“It’s alright” he says and he goes over to our car which is a station wagon which is parked a few feet away. The station wagon is yellow and it’s about 10 years old my Dad bought it 2 years before from my Uncle Henry who was selling it because no one in the world would want it because it was such an old yellow piece of crap except my Dad. He walks around the car looking at it like he’s checking it out like he did when he was thinking about buying it from Uncle Henry because if you ask me he had no idea how to look under the hood or check the engine or anything like that then he comes back to the fire.

“It’s OK it’s natural. Women” he says.

He comes back over to me.

“Women it’s OK you have to understand them very emotional” he says.

A few minutes before all this Claire came out of the tent and whispered something to my Mom my Mom was sitting there singing this song she sings that I hate about a guy who plays the saxophone and he finally finds this great girlfriend but she goes somewhere and then they can’t find each other again so I’m like shut up. Then Claire comes out and whispers I just hear the word “blood” and “panties”. But I’m not an idiot unless the tent exploded and Claire got some kind of weird piece of tent stuck in her upper upper leg she’s having her 1st Period. Which is fine with me I took Sex Ed in 8th grade and I know what’s going on even though it was hard to think in Sex Ed you’d be trying to think but everyone was trying to be so mature all the time and not laugh and you’d have to look around to see who was going to laugh and pretty soon you didn’t even remember the question then a girl would say “VAGINA” and everybody would be like “Hmm do I laugh now?” and before you know it all Hell breaks loose and it is not a learning environment. But it’s pretty easy to deduce that Claires panties have her Period all over them.

Here’s what my Mom looks like: She’s medium height with brown hair that’s short sometimes and long sometimes. She isn’t big or small. She doesn’t wear glasses. I don’t know if she’s pretty or not.

Anyway my Mom and my older sister Beth stood up and the 3 of them went into the tent Mom comes out later and says “everythings fine” and so Dad goes off to the bathroom which is about a 12 mile away by the ranger station not to go to the bathroom but because it’s the only place with lights so he can read. My Dad loves to read I mean loves. You can hear him laughing from all that way over there because he’s really into some book by a guy from England that he thinks is the funniest thing in the world and he laughs like crazy whenever he’s reading it. He always tells us everything about what he’s reading and when he was telling us about it he said it started with a scene of a guy “krepitating” which I had no idea what that was and I guess nobody else did either because we all looked at him which was when he informed us it actually means fart but he didn’t say the word fart I think he said passing gas. Which is not usually what my Dad thinks is funny but I guess this guy was so smart he made it funny. My Dad by the way always wants me to read more and I think it’s 1 of the great disappointments of his life that his only son me doesn’t like to read every second but would rather do stuff including watch TV sometimes.

Anyway this incident is very symbolic of Claire becoming a woman and my summer and my whole family sometimes they just treat me like I’m some kind of moron. Even though I think they usually think I’m pretty smart. And the girls and Mom are always like “Oh you men” so I guess we do sort of gang up on them or something but I don’t know what we’re ganging up on them about.

Anyway later when I was already in bed Dad came in the tent. He got in his wooly underwear and lay down on top of his sleeping bag and put his hands behind his head and started breathing in very slowly through his nose and out through his mouth which is what he learned from a book called Light On Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar for when you want to relax. I pretend to be asleep.

School was starting in a few days. Once when I was a kid and my Mom was sick my Dad made my lunch and he made sardines or more like he wrapped them up and I took them to school and ate them. Then I thought about Caroline Zisko. You know those girls who wear all black 100% of the time? That’s Caroline black fish-net stockings through which you can see her legs but also you can’t at the same time black pants black skirts black shirts. But her face is totally white so it’s like all this black and then this white face coming out of it like a dead body. Kind of a good looking dead body though. She’s got this blond hair that’s really nice even though it looks like she never combs it or washes it her face is sort of pretty even though it’s got these little pock marks all over it. Caroline was nice and I talked to her 1 time in 9th Grade it was near the end of the year and I was standing at the top of the stairs by the freshman lockers about to go home I guess it was Friday Caroline was walking by and then she stops and looks at me.

“So what are you doing this weekend?” she asked.

“Um I’m gonna go see a movie” I said pretty much because I knew “nothing” was a bad answer “nothing” was like “I never do anything I never have done anything not once with anybody.”

“A movie. Cool” she said nodding her head up and down like she totally believed me.

And then she went down the stairs and right before she turned I saw her black T-shirt pulled very tight over her Breasts which were small but looked huge in that shirt.

I stood there and wondered if I should of said a specific movie like Raiders Of The Lost Ark. I wondered if there was any chance that she was going to invite me somewhere if I gave a different answer when she said “what are you doing this weekend?” or if maybe it wasn’t a question but it was more like she wanted for me to ask her to do something like “I’m just hanging out want to go see Star Wars?” Or maybe she meant that her and a bunch of her friends (who all wore tons of eye-shadow everywhere and had gross yellow cigarette stains on their teeth that were supposed to be white) were going to hang out in a basement and light candles and play creepy music and they wanted me to come over and sit on the couch and hang out and even though they were weird and freaky they were kind of hot too.

Copyright 2002 by Joseph Weisberg

Meet the Author

Joseph Weisberg was born and raised in Chicago and now lives in New York City. He wrote his first short story, “The Mid-Life Crisis Exploits,” when he was twelve. 10th Grade is his first novel.

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10th Grade 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
this book is a great book about high school life and the ups and downs of it. it depicts what really goes on in every teenage boys mind. it gives a good sense of what goes on in a normal high school. with its great humor and realistic high school setting 10th grade is a book that every high schooler, or high schooler to be should read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was good it had a great sense of humor, and motives that fit almost all teenage boys. This book does well to capture the essence of the trials in High School, something that many books have trouble doing. I recommend to all who can read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I feel like the author tries to be edgy and portray teen angst, but it's one of the worst books I've ever read. The main character and his friends don't even seem like they're in the tenth grade, they seem like middle school students.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was first confused with the bad grammar and run-on sentences, but but soon got used to it. Overall it was interesting, funny, exciting, and just plain fun.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was like any everyday type book. Everyone could relate to the book. It is about a boy in high school and how he lives his life as he goes through tenth grade. I thought this book was a pretty good book, but it was definitely an easy read, because it kept you up. But the book also had its boring parts. The book was interesting but if I could have the chose to read it again I wouldn¿t. To me it was not a type of book that I would read if I chose it bymyself.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found this book a bore, the most interesting thing happend more then half way through the book when they smoke pot, big deal. the only reason i kept reading it was because it was an assignment, not a worthy read
Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book and felt like I was actually reading something a tenth grader wrote, but I could not stand the run on sentences or bad grammar at ALL! But if you're the type of person who can, then have at it. Despite the bad English, it's a pretty damn good read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was very well written. It was exactly what a 10th grader boy is like. It was exactly what teenagers have to deal with, for example, drugs, friends, school.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was so true to being a 10th grader and especailly a Boy. When I read this book I just remembered how funny and crazy my friends were in 10th Grade and I must say this is an excellent book and should be placed on a reading list so kids can actually read a book they can relate to!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Basically, a story about a teenage boys sophomore year in high school. I liked the book because it made me LAUGH. The writer had good thoughts with the character. Had thoughts about stuff we all do but don't talk about. Could have had a stronger story because it went in one direction and then died and right into another. I expected a grand finale ending.
Guest More than 1 year ago
With 10th Grade, Joseph Weisberg aims to tap into the mind of an average sophomore, and he succeeds brilliantly. Jeremiah Reskin's narrative is full of grammatical errors - and rightly so. His fifteen-year-old flaws hilariously sketch his character into a believable and personable protagonist. A highly recommended first novel - I'm excited to see what lies in Weisberg's literary future.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book is a totally awsome book. sometime it goes way off the subjet, but it is still very good!!