This is a coming of age novel. 15 year old Jackson Ryder is struggling to come to terms with the death of his artistic and vibrant Jewish-American mother.
His father isn’t coping. When offered work in California, he decides this is an opportunity for them to forge a new beginning. Jackson, uprooted from all that is familiar to him, is taken to live in San Sebastiano. He can draw little comfort from his awkward and distant father. En-route to their new home in California, President Kennedy is assassinated.
Set in the sixties these are turbulent times. The USA is reeling. Jackson is left on his own to cope with the loss of his mother and adjusting to a new life. It is against this backdrop of racial tension, coping with a new school, the inevitable bullying and dawning awareness of the opposite sex that we follow Jackson’s first steps on his path to young manhood. Overarched by his passion for art. His saving grace.
This book will appeal more to the older end of young adult readers who will follow the language and racial undercurrents of the book more easily. For example, the author uses the hippie vernacular of the time when some adult characters are speaking. The use of Jiddish and Spanish Mexican words interspersed in the text did sometimes restrict the flow of reading.
The book delivers a message of hope to angst-ridden teenagers. That time is a great healer and a shared passion with like-minded people can carry one through the bleakest of times.
Title: Open your eyes, Jackson Ryder
Author: Rudy Castaneda Lopez
Publisher: Escalator Press
Date of Publication: April 2016
Ages: 13 and over
Reviewer’s name, job title, school name & region: Melanie Muir. Librarian. Hutt International Boys’ School
How highly are you recommending this book? Recommended (for year 9 and above)
What’s the book’s opening sentence? Van Gogh has a lot to answer for.
You can buy this book here