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Page history last edited by RichiesPicks 13 years, 3 months ago

30 June 2003 JAKE, REINVENTED by Gordon Korman, Hyperion, September 2003, ISBN 0-7868-1957-X


"I believe that on the first night I went to Gatsby's house I was one of the few guests who had actually been invited. People were not invited--they went there. They got into automobiles which bore them out to Long Island, and somehow they ended up at Gatsby's door. Once there they were introduced by somebody who knew Gatsby, and after that they conducted themselves according to the rules of behavior associated with amusement parks. Sometimes they came and went without having met Gatsby at all, came for the party with a simplicity of heart that was its own ticket of admission."

--F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1925


"Everybody was there--most of the football team, their girlfriends, the cheerleaders, and a bunch of their boyfriends and friends, the cooler people from student council, and a collection of athletes from basketball and track. I noticed some sophomore girls whose names I didn't know--they'd really filled out over the summer; and a few guys who played in their own rock band. It was the guest list that really made this bash what it was. If I could put together the party of my dreams--not that my parents ever left me alone in the house for more than five minutes--this was exactly the kind of crowd I'd want. I marveled at how a newcomer like Jake Garrett could waltz into town and instantly know all the right people to invite.

"I turned to Todd. 'Do you see him?'

"Todd shook his head. 'Must be upstairs.'

" 'Don't his parents notice there are fifty kids going nuts in their house?' I asked.

"Jake's dad's out of town five days a week,' Todd explained. 'His mother lives in Texas somewhere. He picked up a slice of pizza from the table that was loaded with the stuff, folded it expertly, and took a bite."

--Gordon Korman, 2003


In the same way that Will Shakespeare's immortal work has long benefited from West Side Story, Francis Scott Fitzgerald's masterpiece, THE GREAT GATSBY, will undoubtedly profit from the publication of JAKE, REINVENTED, an extremely well-crafted contemporary retelling by Gordon Korman. Korman, a master of smart-mouthed characters whose own twist on the Bard's star-crossed lovers--last year's SON OF THE MOB--was one of 2002's funniest YA books, has taken a slightly more serious turn with his latest story.


"Jake gave a nervous laugh, 'I guess you've figured out my little side job.' "


Frankly, it takes a little imagination to visualize swarms of teens of my grandfather's generation (no less this generation) taking GATSBY to heart as a cautionary tale. But transformed into a contemporary YA, it is quite easy to see how Rick's (think Nick's) narration of this story of obsession, acceptance, and popularity will have many teens thinking hard about the consequences of these characters' actions. It is said that teenagers reinvent themselves on a daily basis. This believable tale of metamorphosis will surely serve them well.


"I began to push my way through the clammy bodies.

"Marty Rapaport grabbed me and held back my progress. 'Hey, cross-bite, what's going on? What is this, the O.K. Corral?'

"I heard Jake's greeting to Todd. 'Glad you could make it, baby. What's up?'

"For a second there, I toyed with the possibility that he could brazen it through, that his sheer faith in who he'd become might do the job for him. This wasn't the old Jacob Garrett. This was Jake, reinvented. But as soon as Todd started talking, I knew the battle was lost."


In Korman's version, you still have the Gatsby figure creating everything for that girl from his past. You have the corresponding infidelities at the center of things. And while the ultimate outcome is toned down from car crashes and gunshots to cracked skulls and exiles, it feels no less tragic. Think about West Side Story. If anything, Maria's being left alive and alone at the end of the story, with her rage at the prejudice that caused Tony's death, is MORE powerful than Juliette's self-absorbed suicide.


"They began to close the distance between them, moving in that trancelike state that is so dramatic and all phony. It would have been a real romantic moment except for the three guys standing on their heads against the wall trying to chug upside down while a cheering section bellowed encouragement. I think they were betting on the outcome."


Hey, this is Gordon Korman after all. I didn't claim there was NO humor in the book!


Just as viewers of West Side Story or readers of SON OF THE MOB lose little of the entertainment value by not being familiar with the inspiration for those stories, readers of JAKE may lose many interesting contrasts, but don't lose the relevance of the story by never having heard of GATSBY. (Having myself read GATSBY during my first semester comp class, I can just hear some college freshman in a few years, complaining that GATSBY is a rip-off of that Korman story about the kid who made all that money in order to win the beautiful girl.) Sophisticated readers will move from JAKE to the original and benefit from getting the whole enchilada. (Less ambitious readers will at least rent the video, like I did last night, and still get a taste.)


" 'You were right the first time,' I told her. 'It's all about you.'

"I walked out, slamming the bathroom door behind me."


Richie Partington




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