Jess, Chunk, and the Road Trip to Infinity

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Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR), Nov 8, 2016 - Young Adult Fiction - 304 pages
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The last time Jess saw her father, she was a boy. Now she’s a high school graduate, soon to be on her way to art school. But first she has some unfinished business with her dad. So she’s driving halfway across the country to his wedding. He happens to be marrying her mom’s ex-best friend. It’s not like Jess wasn’t invited; she was. She just never told anyone she was coming. Surprise!

Luckily, Jess isn’t making this trip alone. Her best friend, Christophe—nicknamed Chunk—is joining her.

Along the way, Jess and Chunk learn a few things about themselves—and each other—which call their feelings about their relationship into question.

 

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Actual rating 3.5 stars.
I was looking forward to ‘Jess, Chunk, and the Road Trip to Infinity,’ it promised interesting characters and a journey filled with crazy events. What I got was cute
, cheesy, and sometimes a little frustrating.
I liked the narrative style – it was about people, and not the body issues they struggled with (Jess struggled with her gender and Chunk with his weight.) I liked how it illustrated how not everyone gets it. And how any one person is more than one thing and has faults of their own… how the sum total of many things makes us up as individuals.
I did find our protagonist Jess a bit selfish. How she was all about her transition. But I know people who have lived through that process, and it sums up their mental space for that period of time. They’ve been on this journey for so long it consumes them. Not to say they are bad people or narrow-minded. They are simply protecting themselves, anchoring to their core to allow growth once they’ve found that safe place within. But I would have like to have seen her step outside issues other than her gender expression. Nut her story is an important one, and I liked how she interacted with the outside world and started to test boundaries.
Chunk could have been a little more expressive and assertive. He was so compassionate, it felt crippling. I was praying to see him a little more confronting and add some tension to the story, force Jess to think with a bigger perspective. He just such a big adorable teddy bear.
Jess and Chunk were both likeable, and engaging to read, but I wanted more dimension and intensity. It would have lifted the tone from pleasant to impactful.
It was a great story illuminating issues trans people face, and showing representations of sexuality. It was also wonderful at depicting the fear and doubt that non-hetero-normative people live with for their entire lives. But the other side of this is that these issues weren’t really delivered in a realistic way other than a stream of thought. Jess was sheltered and detached from the community, and from taking part in all the activities of the road trip. I get that she was afraid and protecting herself, but not having the issues she faced connected to the reader in some real life experiences, or those of other characters, diminished the importance of these somewhat.
But this book is a marvellous tool in offering a starting point for dialogue about so many issues of the human condition, and how we treat each other.
I loved the nerdy and sci-fi references – nice touch and appealed to my inner geek. It was also great to read about diverse characters that had real world problems.
I’m ambivalent on the ending – while I enjoyed it, I think that there was more character growth and a lot more issues they needed to work out to reach that point. It felt rushed. Otherwise, wonderfully dramatic and managed to drag out all the feels..
 

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About the author (2016)

Kristin Elizabeth Clark is also the author of Freakboy, which received three starred reviews, was a YALSA Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults title, a Project Reading Rainbow List Top Ten title, and a Bank Street Best Book of the Year. She lives and writes in Northern California.

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