Jerk, California [NOOK Book]


Read Jonathan Friesen's posts on the Penguin Blog.

This Schneider Family Book Award winner changed the face of Tourette's Syndrome for modern teens. Wrought with tension, romance, and hope, Jerk, California tells the story of Sam, who sets out on a cross-country quest to learn the truth about his family and his inherited Tourette's Syndrome, along the way finding both love and acceptance.
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Jerk, California

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Read Jonathan Friesen's posts on the Penguin Blog.

This Schneider Family Book Award winner changed the face of Tourette's Syndrome for modern teens. Wrought with tension, romance, and hope, Jerk, California tells the story of Sam, who sets out on a cross-country quest to learn the truth about his family and his inherited Tourette's Syndrome, along the way finding both love and acceptance.
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Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Kevin Beach
Plagued by Tourette's syndrome, a weak mother, and a stepfather who despises him, recent high school graduate Sam is taken in by an eccentric old man in his small Minnesota town. Relentlessly teased by his peers and family, he finds solace and acceptance for the first time in his life with the old gardener. A gifted runner, Sam has a casual friendship with attractive young Naomi, also a runner. Sam begins learning some truths about his real father who also had Tourette's. Was he really a drunken womanizer? The death of his new benefactor brings about more surprises and compels him to take a road trip that will help him discover the truth about his life. Meeting relatives he did not know he had on a his road trip with his girlfriend, Sam fills in some of the gaps that were missing from his past, uncovers some lies, and develops a meaningful relationship with Naomi. Can he set things right back home with what he has discovered? The author conveys Sam's utter sense of frustration with his condition and his accompanying low self-esteem and self-loathing. The dialogue and characters are realistically drawn but sometimes seem a bit stereotypical and at times disjointed. Overall the plot is emotionally rewarding and effective. This novel has been advertised via a book trailer on YouTube, which might spark added interest from the intended audience. Reviewer: Kevin Beach
Kirkus Reviews
Like its Tourette Syndrome-afflicted protagonist, this novel lacks grace. Sam lives with his mother, his baby half brother and his stepfather, an abusive man with OCD who hates Sam's dead father so much that he changed Sam's name. With no prospects after graduation, Sam takes a job with "Coot," a local oddball who knew Sam's dad and quickly becomes Sam's best friend (as well as his connection to beautiful Naomi) before dropping dead and leaving Sam his farm and a quest. Sam, now reverted to Jack and accompanied by Naomi, follows the quest and discovers his parents' Mennonite past and the windmills his father built. Quirky characters who barely rise above caricatures, clunky dialogue and inconsistent voice and a pregnant leading-lady round out the tale. Cluttered plot and issues galore, with a too-easy resolution and a rickety back story (why did no one ever mention to Sam that his dad was not a boozing two-timer?) undermine the potentially interesting premise. Hardly worth the effort. (reading-group questions; author interview, not seen) (Fiction. 13 & up)
From the Publisher
-Compelling.+ -School Library Journal

-Emotionally rewarding and effective.+ -VOYA

-Like any good road story, there are enough corners and bends to keep readers eagerly anticipating what lies ahead at the journey+s end.+ -Booklist

School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—When Sam was diagnosed as a young child with Tourette's Syndrome, handed down to him genetically by his deceased father, his stepfather Bill rejected him and his mother allowed it to happen. Now a high school senior, the boy expects nothing from his mother and abuse from his stepfather. Sam is an outcast in school due to the tics and verbal outbursts his Tourette's precipitates, yet he never explains the disease that causes this behavior. He just struggles on, continues to be bullied, and accepts it all. The day he graduates, George, his dad's old friend, appears in his life and changes everything. All the lies that Bill told him about his father are revealed, but none of it sinks in until George dies and leaves Sam his money, property, and a map that he must follow to learn the truth about his father. George's granddaughter, Naomi, the girl of Sam's dreams, comes along for reasons of her own. On this quest, Sam comes to know himself as James's son, Jack, and learns that his father was a remarkable man. The plot of Jonathan Friesen's debut novel (Penguin/Speak, 2008) is somewhat unbelievable, the story is overly long, and Andy Paris's narration does not fully distinguish the characters. Although Sam has been raised in the Midwest, there is no trace of a regional accent. The winner of the 2009 Schneider Family Book Award for its portrayal of Tourette's Syndrome, this offering will fill a niche in libraries seeking novels about the condition.—Joan Kindig, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781440651243
  • Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
  • Publication date: 9/4/2008
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 683,178
  • Age range: 12 years
  • Lexile: HL510L (what's this?)
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Jerk, California is Jonathan Friesen’s first novel. A fourteen-year public school teacher and writing instructor at the University of Minnesota, Jonathan shares his passion for writing with children of all ages—including three of his own, whom he home schools. He lives in Mora, Minnesota.
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Interviews & Essays

A Conversation with Jonathan Friesen

What theme or message would you most like readers to take away from Jerk, California?
For the young person who is willing to be honest with the world about the pain they feel, there is always hope. Fear is the one emotion that can rob us of hope's joy.

Are there misconceptions about Tourette's syndrome that you wish people better understood?
Many people's concept of Tourette's syndrome is tied to people blurting curse words. Stressing that dramatic aspect makes good TV ratings and humorous movie clips. For a tiny fraction of those with TS, this does occur. But the majority do not swear involuntarily. The other thing I'd mention is that I've never met a person with Tourette's who is not profoundly creative or gifted in some area. We're good people to have around!

What were your own high school experiences like. How (if at all) do they figure into your writing and affect the way you write about your characters' lives?
t diagnosed with TS until after high school. During my school years I still clung to the hope that I could stop my tics, and I blamed myself each time my shoulder jumped. A speaker came and talked to us the first day of my freshman year and said, "These are the best days of your life." I thought, cripes, I sure hope not. Fortunately, things did change. But absolutely -- my pain seeps in to my portrayal of high school for many of my characters. This also explains why hope is such a major theme in every book I write.

You worked as a teacher for fourteen years. Any advice for students struggling to fit in?
Find someone safe, and be real about you. I was a liar and a hider. I spent so much time denying my condition, I was no longer sure of the truth. All that time and energy used to present a fake me to the world could have been used seeking out relationships with those who would accept me. It's amazing -- no matter how defective we think ourselves, there are great people who will love us as we are.

Who has had the greatest influence in your life?
My parents -- specifically Dad -- and usually for the good. They spoke constantly into my life. But the greatest influence may well have been my grandma. My grandma had the rare ability to build me up and kick me in the rear at the very same time. If you've never had this type of person in your life, it's quite an experience. One minute she would tell me what she saw in me, how proud she was of me. Then bam. She'd let me have it, and point out all the areas in which I had more growing to do. But I listened to her, because I knew she loved me and I was certain she believed in me.

Words of wisdom for aspiring writers?
Honor your story. The story you're writing can be violated, just as a person can be violated. It wants to go a certain direction, wants to be told a certain way. It will always be shaped, to some extent, by your own worldview, but let it unfold without forcing elements or themes into it. What is in you, will be in it. Watch the story only you can tell unfold, and enjoy the ride.

Any plans for upcoming novels?
The books will keep coming! I'm excited about my next novel. Rush tells the story of Jake King, a young adrenaline junkie who joins a team of crazed firefighters. They rappel out of helicopters to take on California's most dangerous wildfires. But joining The Rush Club, this team's secret society, proves more deadly than any fire, both for Jake and the girl he loves. I'm thrilled with how this story is coming together!
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 50 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 50 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 16, 2008

    Jerk Opened My Eyes . . . And Filled Them With Tears.

    Jerk is the story of a young man who is freed form a cruel prison. I'm not talking about Tourette's but everything and everyone around him who beat him down with it, including himself. Obviously Jonathan writes out of his own experience and pain--and the story is beyond rich for it. I found myself cheering for Jack, balling up my fists and wanting to fight for him, alongside him. The ending was totally satisfying. Justice prevails at every level. As Jack becomes free from his prison, he frees others with him. It is the story of a beaten down young man who learns to stand tall and straight. A boy who quietly joins the ranks of men who have earned the title Hero. Not because of some glorious moment in a sporting event, but because of his choices, his character, the man he has become. This was the most enjoyable read I've had in a long, long time. I expect this book will be one that becomes required reading in high school classrooms all over the US. And it ought to be.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 2, 2012

    Jerk, California

    Jerk California, now one of my very favorite books I’ve ever read, begins with an 18 year old graduate with Tourettes Syndrome, Sam Carrier. Sam ends up meeting a girl named Naomi while running a race that got rained out. Both were a mystery to eachother, but as you read further into the book, they end up bumping into each other more and more. When Sam becomes friends with the weirdo old gardener man, nicknamed Old Coot, he moves in and assists him with the gardening business. When Old Coot passes, Sam is left a puzzle by Old Coot to find the true story about his father who had allegedly run off with a woman and gotten himself killed.
    Naomi tags along for an unknown reason and as their trip progesses, the two get closer and closer. When they reach their destination, having stopped at all the windmills that Sam’s father had constructed, the duo eventually ends up at Sam’s grandmothers house in Jerk, California. When he is told the truth about his father’s past, he returns to his home town with the courage to face his mother and his abusive, OCD step-father.
    Even though Sam Carrier's life seemed complicated with Tourrettes Syndrome and a drunk, constantly counting step-dad, timid mother, and a town of typically narrow minded people, he proves that he's just the same as us and that he can overcome anything.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 28, 2009

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    In the novel, Jerk California by Jonathan Friesen, Sam Carrier, a recent high school graduate, struggles to stay sane with all of the obstacles thrown his way. Not only does Sam have to deal with Old Bill, his step-father who hates him and a mother who doesn't care, he also struggles from Tourette's syndrome and his social awkwardness. After being tortured by his relentless step-father for the last time, Sam leaves his house in an angry rage and starts roaming around the town. Eventually, a man they call "George the coot" took Sam in and gave him a job. When George dies unexpectedly, Sam leaves his home town to travel across American to a city named Jerk, California. Along the way, Sam meets family he didn't know he had, falls in love, takes on new responsibilities as an adult, and learns new things about himself that he never would have imagined. With the help of George, Naomi, and his deceased father, Sam finds the strength within himself to stand up to Old Bill and take his life back for good.
    I loved this book because there were so many twists that I didn't see coming. Everyone can relate to it in some way because throughout the book Sam faces so many different problems with family, friends, love, money, and self-esteem. It really made me appreciate how great my life actually is, to read about a guy whose life took wrong turns every day. The author based this novel off of his own life, so there are many life lessons to be found throughout the book. I have been blessed with a family who loves me and would never treat me the way Sam's family treated him. Now when I get angry or frustrated I remind myself that life could be worse. At least I have to ability to sit still.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 26, 2012

    Author is great

    I think I read Jerk, California in fourth grade. I enjoyed it a lot, it was one of those books that I dreamt a sequel was made. It was touching, and throughout the book, I thought a lot about some of the things people said about Sam. It made me think. Do I want someone to treat me like that? Do I get to treat others like that just because they're different?

    If you know anything about Tourette's Syndrome, some common "tics" are jerking and twitching, and swearing randomly and uncontrollably. This, of course, is what Sam has.

    He is pretty much alone in life. Sam struggles with Tourette's. His mother pretends to try to support him and protect him against his abusive stepfather. He can really only talk to his shrink. But really, he is repulsed at the thought of needing a shrink. Then, one day, he goes on a road trip with a girl named Naomi. Naomi is the kind of character that I copied into one of my Barbie dolls. Cute! At the end of the story, there is a shocking surprise and discovery with Naomi and Sam. Read it to find out.

    I had two advantages in reading this book.
    The first advantage is that I am from Minnesota. I tend to enjoy any book where the Minnesotan author likes to place his characters there.

    Second, I got to meet Jonathan Friesen. Sort of. At a school seminar he spoke a bit about his experiences. It made me feel sad for him. His childhood was as troubled as Sam's. Maybe even moreso. He told of how in seventh grade, the grade I'm in, he stopped going to school and lived in his room. He began to write there. He wrote on his walls, namely "I HATE ME. I HATE ME." Wow. But, now he is married with three children and living happily. He's quite a great guy and rather funny, too.

    If you are looking for a great story about, love, loss, and cope, Jerk, California will really open your eyes.

    --MissFutureAuthor122 Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2012

    this book changes the way you look at people, its an amazing boo

    this book changes the way you look at people, its an amazing book

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2012

    Totally awesome!! Must read!!!!

    Awesome book. Really touching. In all, great book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 14, 2012


    It touches your heart no matter how many times you read it. I dont think i will ever get tired of reading. The author neeeds to make a sequel!!! What do you think

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  • Posted January 8, 2012

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    An emotional eye-opener. Great Read!

    Jerk, California is about a teenage boy called Sam Carrier (AKA, Jack Keegan) and his diseased biological father, his current short-tempered OCD stepdad, and the syndrome that continuously plagues him: Tourette’s. In a life instilled with not only a misleading condition, but also a life of lies, and secrets, Sam, AKA Jack, is sent on a life-changing expedition to find the truth about his real father. He’ll uncover true friendship, and even romance along the way in this emotional, relatable tale. I found the book very interesting and relatable to real-life situations. It is also an eye-opener to the affects of the very misleading “curse at everyone, punch random people” Tourette’s Syndrome. And for a random fun fact? The author of the book also struggles with TS.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 17, 2011


    I think that this book is really good. At times it is hard to read but its one of those books that you just cant put down!

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  • Posted June 26, 2011

    Frustratingly awesome

    The strugles of the main character are sometimes excrutiating but the depth and development of the story wont let you put the book down!

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  • Posted April 19, 2011

    Heart wrenching must read.

    This book keeps you intrigued threw and threw. It describes things in ways that anyone disease or not can relate to. I read it once a few years ago and continue to think back on the vivid details and the descriptions of the surroundings. This is my second time reading it now and i dont believe my last. Wonderful book i almost wish there was more to it so i could follow the characters threw life. I think everyone one should read this and fall in love with the story like i did.

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  • Posted July 20, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Now and Forever Part of My Permanent Library

    I pricked this up in my library last year over the summer and said, "Why not?" Unfortunately, I had to put it back because school was starting up again, and I still had to finish my summer project. So now, exactly one year later, I am ahead in my summer project, so I picked it up again and now I am so glad I did. Jerk California will forever be apart of my library.
    I recommend this novel to anyone in for a moving life-journey story. I love how relatable it is to everyone!

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  • Posted December 10, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Well Written

    I am so glad that I bought this book. It is an amazing story and Jonathan Friesen wrote this very well. You feel for Sam as he deals with trouble in life and tries to get through it. The story has meaning, love, friendship with a little bit of laughter. I think it really connects with real people who have tourettes.
    Again I am very glad that I bought this book. It has stood up to being one of my favorite books and I recommend it to other readers.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 28, 2009

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    Jumped out at me off the shelf!

    A great stand alone novel. I'm big into series right now and couldn't seem to find just a good book on its own until I came across Jerk California. The timing is wonderful, most books tend to just have the big build up and then everything goes down at the end but Jerk takes you for a ride the whole time. Thoroughly enjoyed the read!

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  • Posted May 17, 2009

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    This book is about a boy with Tourttes (something like that). It cause his to jerk and shout out random things. He's an outcast at school and nobody likes him. He's a fantastic runner and one day while he's running he meets the girl of his dreams, Naomi. She likes him to but she's keeping a secret from him. The boy runs into George, who is well known and who knows his dad, and he tells him that his real name is Jack. The boy finds out later that George is related to Naomi and when he dies he leaves Jack something. It's map that has spots where his father went. So Jack set out on this journey with Naomi and tenions begin to rise after every stop he makes. If you want to find out about what happens on the road trip between pretty Naomi and jerky Jack, read the book. If you like suspense and drama this is the book to read! See ya ;)

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  • Posted May 8, 2009

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    I did like this novel, but it was different from how I thought it would be. I found this (excuse the pun) to be a jerky read. All the characters and emotions were fleeting and the way it was written was difficult to read. I liked the concept, but it could have been done better.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2009


    This book was pretty good, and was different fro how I imagined it would be.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 6, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    The Journal

    Jerk, California is about am 18 year old highscool graduate, who has to deal with Tourette Syndrome, being made fun of by his peer, and having to grow up without his real father. Jack, or Sam Carrier, was diagnosed with tourettes when he was 6 and ever since that day his step father hasn't looked at hime the same. he lost his father when he was very younge and his mother remarried, his step father changed his name from jack to sam, told tremendous lies about his bilogical father, and his mom and step dad had a baby, and bill his step dad treats the baby like a saint and sam like a pile of dog crap. The day of Sam's graduation he gets a letter from one of his biological fathers old friends, the letter has a note from his father and a map in it. Sam ends up falling inlove with a girl and going on the trip of a lifetime with her, that his father planned, and learning a lot about himself, his father, and someone else very special to him.<BR/><BR/>This book is very good i would recommend it to teens, or just a light read for any avid reader.

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  • Posted December 13, 2008

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    A disease can be hard to life with if you have negative thoughts about it.

    jerk is really good. It's about a boy who lost his dad when he was younger and the step father is really mean, and who beats his mom. thats not all the step-dad also tells lies about his dad that arent true, but his mom is to scared to say anything. he also has torettes so he thinks his dad just left him with that and thats it, and he doesnt have any friends cause everyones mean to him and makes fun of all his twitching. if you like weird books then you'll enjoy this.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 13, 2008

    Great Book

    From page one, I was engrossed. The main character, Sam/Jack, really spoke to me. Sam/Jack is very smart and kind, but has suffered from Tourette's syndrome from the age of 6. I found myself choking back tears as he interacted with people and completely misunderstood them because he expected them to see him as a monster. I know that voice in his head that tells him he is worthless and an embarrassment. As soon as I finished reading the book, I turned back to the first page and started reading it again. Reading this book really made me take an honest look at myself, how I view myself and how others view me. This book is fun, heart wrenching and meaningful. I would recommend it to Young Adults and Adults alike.

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