The Edumacation of Jay Baker

The Edumacation of Jay Baker

4.6 6
by Jay Clark

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A few "sexy" bullet points about Jay: • He is in love with a cheerleader named Cameo "Appearance" Parnell
• He is forever losing "Love-15" to tennis-playing goddess Caroline Richardson
• He rocks a touché array of pop-culture references, jokes, and puns
• His family-life cookie is about to crumble.


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A few "sexy" bullet points about Jay: • He is in love with a cheerleader named Cameo "Appearance" Parnell
• He is forever losing "Love-15" to tennis-playing goddess Caroline Richardson
• He rocks a touché array of pop-culture references, jokes, and puns
• His family-life cookie is about to crumble.

Live vicariously through Jay as he faces off against his mortal enemy, gets awkward around his dream girl(s), loses his marbles in a Bermudian love triangle, watches his parents' relationship implode, and, finally, learns to get real and be himself(ish), in The Edumacation of Jay Baker by Jay Clark.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Clark debuts with a pop culture–filled narrative that never quite finds a middle ground between its tendency toward cutesiness and an earnest plot revolving around teen love, broken families, and alcoholism. Fifteen-year-old Jay, driven by a crush on his best friend, cheerleader and American Idol hopeful Cameo, is running for class president in order to impress her. After a number of frustrating turns (ranging from an embarrassing debate to the discovery that his mother has been having an affair with Cameo’s father), Jay winds up in detention with Caroline, an attractive new girl. Soon they are going out, but the family troubles don’t stop for either of them, as Jay’s parents head toward divorce and Caroline’s mother contends with alcoholism. Clark gives Jay an engaging voice, but one that seldom feels natural; his overuse of silly words— “D-bomb” (for divorce), “jizzorgeous,” etc.—drags the story line down at the wrong moments without adding anything substantial. It’s a good if not groundbreaking story that is let down by overwriting. Ages 12–up. Agent: Trident Media Group. (Jan.)
School Library Journal
Gr 7–10—Jay Baker, 15, has been having a tough time. Not only is his relationship with his best friend/longtime crush, Cameo Appearance Parnell, confusing him, but his parents' marriage also seems to be hitting critical mass. Footballer Mike Hibbard seems to have it in for him, too, and Jay can't for the life of him understand why. Things take a refreshing turn when he meets nationally ranked tennis player Caroline, the new girl at school, who is as snarky as he is. It remains to be seen whether their fledgling relationship can survive Cameo's finally returning Jay's affections and long-buried secrets about Jay's mother coming to the surface. While the novel has clever moments, the author's blending of sometimes-dated pop-culture references with actual words to create a weird amalgamated language can, at times, be slightly tiresome. Jay's teacher serves as something of a mentor to him yet is openly candid and even swears in front of him. She comes across as the least-realistic character in the book and has the potential to cause many readers to question the professional nature of her role as an educator. Jay's relationship with his parents is perhaps the strongest story point, giving the sense that his mom and dad are finally being honest with him about the delicate nature of their family. The lackluster romantic drama won't keep readers' attention, and the nonsensical wordplay ultimately falls flat.—Ryan Donovan, New York Public Library
Kirkus Reviews
A sardonic teen must balance life, love and irritable bowel syndrome in this strained middle-class comedy of manners. Jay Baker's life is a mess. His parents are separating, his mom is shacking up with his crush object's dad and he's running for freshman-class president against football Neanderthal Mike Hibbard, who's been bullying him for the past two years. He's also torn between two girls: the aforementioned crush--and best friend--Cameo and hot, new tennis whiz Caroline. To top it all off, Jay's IBS does nothing to help his game either on or off the court. Clark's dialogue-heavy prose is littered with Jay's sarcastic zingers, often to the point of distraction, like this tortured bon mot: "Ah, there he was: my born-again inner snarkster delivering that little fetus to their doorstep. It's a boy!" Between the soapy story line, constantly acerbic commentary and clumsily doctored pop-song titles that introduce each chapter, the whole effect is too, too much. In addition, references to current celebrities like Katy Perry and Jessica Alba ensure a short shelf life. For more authentically humorous male teen voices that aren't trying so hard, look to Don Calame's Swim the Fly (2009) or Susan Juby's Getting the Girl (2008). Restraint would have been the better part of valor here. (Fiction. 13 & up)

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Product Details

Square Fish
Publication date:
Edition description:
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Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

The Edumacation of Jay Baker







Mom and Dad were in their room with the door shut. Again. Cautiously, I pressed my ear against the wooden frame. Hakuna Matata, no Discovery Channel-like sounds could be heard. Only two mammals speaking so quickly and intensely that their voices were nearly inaudible.

Mom: "You're never home enough to know how ... ta garba gunkin gooble gariation."

Dad: "Where were you when ... aveno espresso somato Arantxa Sánchez Vicario?"

Huh? Just when it seemed I'd get the gist of the conversation, they'd start mumbling in a language known only to the Sims.

An odd noise rang out, causing me to jump back from the door.

Turned out to be my stomach growling for the pizza Mom and Dad had promised earlier. I was hesitant to interrupt them for funding, though, and my recent birthday present tomyself—a MacBook Pro, fifteen years in the making—had left me cash poor. One last payment option: my body. I doubted Amore's Pizzeria would barter a slice of this for one of theirs.

I walked back downstairs, grabbed my cell from my room, and called my best friend, the satirically named Cameo Appearance Parnell (thanks to her cuckoo mother).

"Cameo Appearance Parnell speaking." She answered professionally, knowing it was me from the caller ID on her cell.

"Yes, is Cameo Parnell there, please?" I asked, equally professional.

"Yes, she's speaking and stuff."

"But is she there, ma'am?"

"Depends. Who's calling?"

"Me. What are you doing, fool?"

"I kissed a girl ... and ... I ... liiiiked iiiit," she sang slowly, painfully, like the Katy Perry Auto-Tune was a ballad. "Something something, can't remember the wooords, cheeerry ChapStick."

There was only one question to ask.


"Just testing out an emotional reinterpretation for my American Idol audition," she explained. "I'm making it my own."

"It sounds like you're making out with it."

"Even better."

Cameo was actually a great singer, and her ultimate goal was to execute a Kelly Clarkson breakaway from our hometown of Indian Lake, Ohio. Home of ... the great man-madeIndian Lake, three "dollar stores" (one Family Dollar, two Dollar Generals), McDonald's, and Low Bob's Tobacco, a drive-thru tobacco outlet located in an abandoned Kentucky Fried Chicken building. My parents, cigarette enthusiasts till their last drag of breath, were loyal customers.

"Hate to break it to you gently again, Cam, but you're fifteen and ineligible to try out until next year."

"All the more reason to get a jump-start on the compe-tish. Speaking of which, have you started practicing for next Monday's big debate yet?"

"I don't wanna talk about it."

Let the record show that I'd signed up to run for class president without knowing about the First Anal Freshman Class Presidential Debate—a last-minute addition by our overenthusiastic government teacher, Ms. Lambert.

"I can't believe you're running," Cameo said.

"Me either."

"Remind me of the reason again?"

Yep, Cameo was the (wrong) reason. A snizzly little cheerleading dynamo with long blond hair and a Kate-Hudson-cum-jailbait face—I'd loved her now for many moons. But she gravitated toward jocks like her on-again, off-again boyfriend, Wade Pierson, not nerds with straight-A report cards. I caught Luigi on my Mario Kart, not balls. But if I grew a pair and became class president, well, maybe I'd morph into a candidate worthy of Cam. The plan was total shit.

"Next topic."

"I broke up with Wade," she said.


"Nice," I said. "When did you realize he was a tool of Seacrestian proportions?"

"When his hands tried to measure my proportions."


"Yeah, I thought he was the one," she said sarcastically.

"At least you maintained custody of your dignity," I said.

"Exactly. Now, where was I?"

She resumed singing "I Kissed a Girl" before I could protest.


After Cameo and I hung up, I plopped down at my desk, opened my MacBook, and began typing notes on our latest conversation into my journal. I'd named my sleek new toy Alba, in honor of renowned thespian Jessica, and she really understood where I was coming from on a variety of sexually frustrated levels.

Twenty minutes passed until my stomach growled again. Over it, I trotted back up the stairs and rapped on my parents' door, calling out, "Mom? Dad?"

"Come in, Buckwheat," Dad said.

I entered.

They were seated on the bed, Mom on her side and Dad on his, a whole lotta Weird Al in between them.

"Hey, Buckwheat," Mom said, choking on the words.

Buckwheat was their nickname nod to my uncontrollably messy hair (minus the politically incorrect undertones). For the longest time I'd thought Mom and Dad were saying "Buttwheat," which had baffled me. Wheat comes from the butt?

"Can I order the pizza from Amore's yet?" I asked.

My parents' room was huge and dimly lit—"mood lighting" as Mom had put it one time after one too many brewskies—so at first I couldn't see their faces. However, as I stepped closer to their gargantuan four-poster bed, I realized that Mom's cheeks were flushed and splotchy from crying.

My eyes searched hers for an explanation, but the look she gave me in response said she wasn't ready to provide one.

I turned to Dad. He appeared to be shaken, too, but was covering better. Quickly, he unfurled some bills from his money clip and told me to get pepperoni on half for my seventeen-year-old sister, Abby, who was holed up in her room as usual, in between friends' houses and/or trips to her boyfriend Eric's nether regions.

"We have to make sure she eats so she can keep up her texting strength," he said in a halfhearted attempt at humor.

"Don't forget updating her Facebook page," I added. "Eight thirty-five p.m. Abby Baker ... is analyzing the sociocultural ramifications of the Jessica Simpson Mom Jeans Scandal. Maybe I should ghostwrite that one for her, Mom?"

A merchant at The Limited HQ in Columbus before schlepping to suburbia to raise a family, Mom was as close to a fashionista as one could come by in Ohio.

"Sure," Mom said. "That leopard-print belt ..." But she trailed off, unable to complete her critique.

"Okay," I said, stepping backward. "I'll get right on that."

What was going on up in here was definitely not amore.

Copyright © 2011 by Jay Clark

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