Friday, October 3, 2014

"Jesus Jackson"

James Ryan Daley is a writer, editor, and digital designer. After majoring in English at a strange and wonderful school called Prescott College in northern Arizona, Daley went on the earn his MFA in Writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2004. Over the years that followed, he worked as an Acquisitions Editor for Dover Publications and an English Teacher at a small Catholic high school (and no, the irony of the latter is not lost on him), before beginning his freelance career in the spring of 2008. Now, he spends most of his time writing fiction for teenagers, creating websites about video games, teaching writing to college students, and editing anthologies of speeches and short stories.

Daley applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Jesus Jackson, and reported the following:
Let me just start off by saying that Marshall McLuhan is a freaking genius. I know, I know: Duh. But seriously, I was more than a little wary of this whole “Page 69” idea when it was first brought my attention. After browsing the 69th pages of a few dozen of my favorite books, though, and then applying the test to Jesus Jackson, I was thoroughly convinced. Honestly, if you had asked me to search through the entirety of Jesus Jackson to find one page that managed to capture both the protagonist’s inner struggle as well as the essence of the story, I would have laughed in your face, grumbled indignantly, and then wound up on page 69.

Here’s what you need to know:

Jonathan, the narrator, is a 14 year-old atheist who’s got some serious issues—his older brother just died, he’s pretty much the only person in school that doesn’t believe in God (except for Henry, his solitary friend), and all anyone wants to do is pray for him and offer platitudes about how his brother is in a “better place” (which is precisely the last thing that Jonathan wants to hear). What’s worse: just a few hours before this scene, Jonathan first came to realize that his brother’s death may not have been the accident that everyone thinks it was. This sets Jonathan off on his quest to find the truth, not just about his brother, but about religion, friendship, girls, and high school (and a few other things) while he’s at it…

Page 69, in its entirety:
There have been few times in my life when I have felt more foreign, more incredibly different than I did every day after school at St. Soren’s. Like every other school, the final bell heralded a great rush of students into the hallway, a great wave of relief and expectant freedom on their faces. But at St. Soren’s I never shared in that relief, that freedom...and, if anything, I seemed to dampen it in everyone who laid eyes on me. I was a wandering freak show, a great big human-shaped sign that read “Pity me,” “Feel sad for me,” “Pray for me.”

And I didn’t even have the courtesy to force a brave smile, to thank them for their prayers.

So it was for more than mere convenience that I had Henry meet me behind the school, instead of at my locker or on the steps. And by the time he came bounding out of the doors, his tiny frame dwarfed by his gargantuan backpack, he seemed to have given up any reservations about our plan. He practically skipped up to greet me.

Dropping his bag on the ground at my feet, he reached into the outside pocket and pulled out a handful of plastic sandwich bags. “Here,” he said, handing a few to me. “We’ll need these to collect evidence.”
Visit James Ryan Daley's website.

--Marshal Zeringue