Friday, October 4, 2013

Review: Coaltown Jesus

Coaltown Jesus
By Ron Koertge
Expected publication October 8, 2013 by Candlewick Press

Walker is surprised to find his prayers answered - in the form of Jesus, standing in his room. But if Walker was expecting Him to solve all of his problems, he's got another thing coming.

I stumbled across this one on NetGalley one day (which I need to stop doing - I already have enough books to read!) and downloaded it, knowing it would likely be a quick read and one I would enjoy. I was right on both accounts.

Koertge may have been one of my gateway authors to novels in verse - and my addiction has only grown since then. While Koertge doesn't write exclusively in verse, I had a feeling when I spotted this one that it would be, thus my feeling it would be a quick read. I think it took me maybe an hour to finish this one - obviously, there is a lot of white space on the pages and the word count is not terribly high. However, Koertge manages to tell a complete and compelling story in those few words.

This book really hit home for me - Walker's brother died recently, his mother hasn't stopped crying since, and he doesn't know what to do. Any book that explores the relationship between siblings is interesting to me, but those that explore the loss of a sibling even more so. While I didn't have the same questioning of religion experience that Walker did, I do understand many of his feelings - the unfairness, the helplessness, the confusion, the sadness. I thought Koertge did a great job capturing the feelings that can overwhelm one upon the death of a family member.

Additionally, I thought Koertge did a great job with Jesus (that is a supremely odd sentence to write). Irreverent portrayals of Jesus are not terribly uncommon in literature, although maybe more rare in literature for young people. I think Koertge gave his version of Jesus the right blend of irreverence and wisdom, peppering important lessons into the sometimes absurdity.

Overall, I thought this was a thought-provoking and amusing read. Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via NetGalley.

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