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I should probably just come right out and say it: I freaking loved this book.
If you have read any of my last couple reviews, you’ll know that I haven’t really enjoyed any of the last books I’ve read — and honestly, that was putting me in a real reading rut. That’s why I was so excited when I started reading Nice Try, Jane Sinner, because it was captivating right from the start.
First things first, we meet the wonderfully funny 17-year-old Jane Sinner, the book’s aptly named main character who has a lot going on: she is in her senior year of high school (in Canada) when she gets expelled over an apparent suicidal episode. She soon finds herself in the midst of what can only be described as an existential crisis; she was raised wholeheartedly youth-group Christian, and is now questioning her beliefs.
After being expelled from high school, Jane decides to finish up her required classes at a local community college, where she plans to later continue her education in psychology. At the community college, she becomes involved in a reality TV show called “House of Orange,” which kind of reminds me of an MTV reality show but with only 6 stars, less cussing, and less pointless drama.
Jane and her new co-stars are put up to a variety of challenges by the House of Orange (HOO) producers, and one of them gets “voted off the island” by their peers every few weeks. HOO becomes wildly popular in the area, but somehow not popular enough for Jane’s parents to find out about it until about halfway through the book.
Jane also has a devotion to her high school best friend, Bonnie, who remains in the back of her mind as a little subplot, as well as a connection with her little sister, Carol, who seemed to have taken Jane’s suicidal episode worse than anyone else.
So now you know the basics. Here’s what I thought:
Firstly, I loved that NTJS was written in such a unique style. The book is basically Jane’s diary, so we get to see her innermost thoughts, but there is still dialogue, which is formatted sort of like a screenplay would be.
I couldn’t get enough of that.
I felt like I got through the book so quickly because I didn’t have to deal with pesky dialogue tags around every corner, plus, the 17-year-old mindset of Miss Sinner kept the book’s voice youthful and humorous. It’s been a long time since I read a truly funny book.
I also loved how real the book was.
A lot of times, authors (particularly YA authors) try to throw in modern slang and buzz words — and when it’s an adult writer writing YA, that can be problematic. And awkward.
This wasn’t the case with this book. In just the first few pages, the author, Lianne Oelke, mentioned Facebook and Netflix, but unlike many other authors, it didn’t sound like she was our 50-year-old great aunt trying to “connect” with us youngsters. It was real and raw, and I have so much appreciation for that.
(The only thing I really couldn’t get behind as far as realism goes is how little interaction Jane has with her parents after moving out — and that they even let her move out knowing how the state of her mental health — but I’m attributing that to the fact that we can only see this story through the eyes of Jane, and she very well could just be leaving out the parts involving Mama and Papa Sinner.)
I also couldn’t get enough of Jane’s silly quips — in my notes, I called them “unexpected anti-clichés.” Basically, Jane messes up idioms on purpose: e.g., the domino that broke the camel’s back, or, letting the cat out of the building.
It’s stupid and silly and wonderful. Don’t fight me on it.
Additionally, Oelke writes in her author bio that she works in the film industry, and that’s pretty obvious by her writing style (screenplay-esque dialogue!), and by her sheer knowledge of film production, which was obviously integral to a story about a reality show.
It was honestly refreshing to read an author who knows what she’s talking about.
This is Oelke’s debut novel, and I can honestly say that I will be picking up anything this woman writes from this moment forward. She’s that good. In fact, she could be the next Meg Cabot. (And I really hope she is! Can someone say movie deals?)
Until then, I’ll probably read Nice Try, Jane Sinner at least once more. Seriously. It’s that good.
I paid for my own copy of this book with my own money.
This article was first published March 12, 2018.