The teenage years are fraught with perils—usually the small, humiliating kind. Fifteen-year-old Jacob wears his adolescence like a hair shirt, in the hilarious YA romance For The Love Of Mary. Jacob is alternately confident and cowardly. He reassures himself that at least he’s doing better than his best friend, Moss Murphy, “whose Mexican-food-induced flatulence was, at times, almost canine.” But then a mega church goes up across the street, bringing with it Jesus-inflected AC/DC lyrics, an ambitious ministry, and Mary, the pastor’s beautiful daughter.
The novel’s mix of lowbrow humor and a refreshing self-awareness make it a terrific pick for YA lovers of all ages. Jacob wrestles mightily with questions of theology and love—and the virtues of Tetris, which gives Jacob “night terrors about left-facing L-blocks that refused to fit into the right side of a puzzle.”
What’s most satisfying about For The Love Of Mary isn’t it’s hilarious characterizations or generous details, but the way that the author has perfectly captured the anxiety of the teenage years. Jacob sweats, squeezes zits, celebrates the failures of his rival, overestimates himself, and, finally, comes into his own. Mary may be the vehicle for his coming-of-age, but the show belongs to Jacob.
Claire Rudy Foster
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