The last book I loved was Confessions of a Teenage Jesus Jerk by Tony DuShane.
Confessions of a Teenage Jesus Jerk is a triumph, not only for the adolescent Jehovah’s Witness whose voice grows like his first lone pubic hair into a riot but for anyone who has ever felt the spirit of any kind of community; it will remind anyone who has felt the urgings of the heart and stripped naked before love that the rest of the world is something to plunge into even despite the pain and hardship and injustice here.
Gabe is paralyzed by being constantly taught to evaluate the potential consequences of every action. The whole world is off limits. The heart is treacherous and deceitful above all things is the signpost for his conscience and for his soul. He has been taught this as a truth and as religion. Jesus Jerk is the account of one teenager’s coming to terms with such a ludicrous and yes blasphemous claim, and ultimately, his defying it. A poignant statement on what an acute conscience can do to an adolescent, this is: how good it can be, so long as he attached to it can still have fun.
Whether it’s better this child was reared with such strict and close-minded principles depends, I believe, on how strong the child. Without his parents’ values Gabe would never have seen his peers from the vantage of an outsider, would not have known what it is to make his own decisions or to relish the simple freedoms we all take for granted: sex, drugs; punk rock and rollercoasters. If he can grow into these things and stay true to himself he will succeed. He talks as he tries to learn how to dance. This book will make you laugh.
He faces the world having been disfellowshipped from his community and now with the strength to leave his family alone and without compass true but alive and in his own flesh free. Freedom, the scary ever-present! He is forced to face IT and on this wet winter night because leaves on the ground bring The Smiths to mind I am singing: “I’m not happy and I’m not sad” – a result not of indifference, but from fear of having so much passion and no clear place to put it.
Gabe might be singing this, self-liberated from all he knows now staring into the future with an expanded and undefined category of emotions, as he is! – certainly charged with energy and life and if not hope then at least freedom. Freedom is something we can all get used to. Don’t.
Pick this book up and remember.