NICE TRY, JANE SINNER
By Lianne Oelke
420 pp. Clarion Books. $17.99
Published January 9, 2018
Young Adult – Contemporary
Nice Try, Jane Sinner by Lianne Oelke is the story of a 17-year-old girl who has an existential crisis and is expelled from high school. To finish her diploma, she enrolls in a community college. There she decides to participate in a Big Brother-esque campus reality show called House of Orange.
For the first half of the book it is unclear why Jane is so notorious in her hometown and why she was expelled from high school. What we do know is that Jane was raised in the church but has lost her belief and feels alienated from her family because of her questions. This is a topic not often seen in young adult literature, so Nice Try, Jane Sinner feels original and profound.
While the thematic elements gave me something to think about, the House of Orange game show plot kept me turning the pages. I wanted to see what the next ridiculous challenge was, who would win, and how Jane would deal with living in a house with no doors and five other people.
I was surprised by how invested in Jane’s story I became because the book is written like a diary. This means we are getting recaps of everything that happened from Jane’s point of view. Most conversations are written like a transcript or screenplay. I’m not usually one for the diary entry story-telling, but Oelke does a good job of connecting the reader to the other characters besides Jane.
I feel like I’m downplaying how much I enjoyed Nice Try, Jane Sinner. I couldn’t stop reading it. I gasped aloud at a plot twist near the middle and laughed aloud at a couple other parts.
There is a subtle romantic storyline, but the Jane’s relationships with her family and friends take precedence.
Finally, because this is a diary, Jane’s voice is the strongest element. She is sarcastic, ironic, and hilarious.
Why I liked it: The hilarious sarcastic voice, original plot, and how Oelke dealt with issues of faith or lack thereof. There was also lots of diversity. Jane grew as a character and figured out what was important even if she didn’t believe in God or the church.
Why other people might like it: The foregrounding of family relationships. The romance, and high school/college age readers might identify with Jane’s struggle to transition into the college life.
For people who enjoy Big Brother, reality TV, and books about family relationships.
Overall, Nice Try, Jane Sinner is a funny, surprising, and profound story centered around a ridiculous college reality show.