My rating: 4 of 5 stars
First Published: January 9th, 2018
Publisher: Clarion Books
Recommended Age: 12+
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, College, Reality Show, Humor
The only thing 17-year-old Jane Sinner hates more than failure is pity. After a personal crisis and her subsequent expulsion from high school, she’s going nowhere fast. Jane’s well-meaning parents push her to attend a high school completion program at the nearby Elbow River Community College, and she agrees, on one condition: she gets to move out. Jane tackles her housing problem by signing up for House of Orange, a student-run reality show that is basically Big Brother, but for Elbow River Students. Living away from home, the chance to win a car (used, but whatever), and a campus full of people who don’t know what she did in high school… what more could she want? Okay, maybe a family that understands why she’d rather turn to Freud than Jesus to make sense of her life, but she’ll settle for fifteen minutes in the proverbial spotlight.
Reality show on paper?
Been there, read that. Life in a Fishbowl was awful and I dare say unreadable, so why even bother with this one?
Well, if I learned something these past few years of reading actively, it’s that you can’t let one book ruin a genre, topic, character type or even writing style for you.
This has one of the most original contemporary premises I’ve heard of lately: Jane Sinner gets expelled from high school for unknown reasons and decides to become a participant of a reality show run by a student at her new community college.
Jane Sinner is a college student. I’ve given up on finding YA novels with main characters at college. I don’t mind high school settings, even if I’m at university now, but I sure appreciate being able to read about a heroine who understands what I’m going through.
But of course, the reality show is the main aspect of this book, since JS has to live inside a house with other people and cameras everywhere. If anything, House of Orange makes this contemporary book even more realistic.
It pushes Jane to crawl out of her shell and try new experiences. The competitions are taken seriously by both Jane and the reader themselves. Although some are silly, Jane’s desire to win makes them look important. She doesn’t always admit it, but she cares.
Characters with dry humor, often making sarcastic comments, are a hit or miss for me. They have to not overdo it and make remarks that are amusing and/or clever to pull me in. Jane Sinner manages that perfectly.
As with all existing reality shows, do expect drama… the obsessively fun kind.
Blog tour Q & A with the author:
Q: Jane’s wit, personality, and sense of honour are all strong characteristics. Did any real people inspire the character Jane?
A: This may come across as narcissistic, but Jane was based on… me. A concentrated, wittier, braver version of myself. Like Jane, I’ve struggled with deep insecurities all my life. With disappointing my family. With depression. Nihilism. I kept a journal during university to deal with all that, and NICE TRY, JANE SINNER grew from those entries. I wanted to turn my journal– my past– into something I was proud of. So I took out certain things I didn’t like and added whatever made me laugh. Jane Sinner became a sort of alter ego. She was brave enough to say (or at least think) all the things I wish I could. Jane will always be funnier than me, though. It took me years to come up with all the dry and biting remarks that she rattles off without a thought.
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