Monday, October 13, 2014

Jesus Jackson by James Ryan Daley

This review was written by: B and C
Received: Free Arc from Publisher
Publication Date of Book: October 7, 2014
Stars: (4.5/5)
Jonathan Stiles is a fourteen year old atheist who lost faith in God a long time ago.  However, his disbelief in the faith was not prevalent in his youth.  Unlike his father, his mother was a devout Christian who instilled faith into her two sons at a young age, but when her oldest child, Ryan, decides that the Bible is nothing but lies in a book that contradicts the knowledge that we have today, like God creating the world in seven days, he tells his younger brother, Jonathan, that it's not real.  Jon quickly believes him and drops the love and hope he had in the Lord.  These two siblings then enter into a quest in which they are seeking a true religion so that they have something to really believe in again.  Compiling a list of what religions can't possibly be true, it seems as though they will never get to the bottom of their mystery.  The list keeps growing and growing until the religions available become smaller and smaller.  Then the worst possible thing that can happen does: Jon's mother finds the list with Catholicism as one of the top false religions.  She goes absolutely ballistic, phoning a special meeting with their priest.  The next school year, Ryan, an atheist teen, is forced to go to a Catholic school and be subjected to ideas he does not believe in.

Fast forwarding to present day, Jonathan is now about to start high school at the same Catholic facility that his senior brother has been at for several years now.  However, just hours before his first day, Ryan is found dead at the bottom of a ravine behind the school.  Starting school in a Catholic environment that's full of people who say that they knew his brother, is just the start of Jon's problems.  He believes that Ryan's death was not an accident.  He was there a few hours before he died and has suspicions on what may have went down.  However, proving himself to be right will not be easy.

Then comes Jesus Jackson, a man who bears an uncanny resemblance to Christ, with the exception of his outrageous clothing style.  He always shows up just when Jonathan needs him, and we find out that he has a very interesting occupation.  Jesus gives clients faith for money.  A free appraisal is even included!  When Jon says that he does not want faith because he is an atheist, Jesus tells him that he can give him faith in nothing.  Being an atheist requires faith in nothing itself, just like Christianity requires faith in God. Finally giving into Jesus Jackson's faith proposal, Jonathan's journey begins with a delve into the unknown and questions that we all have to answer when facing death.

We absolutely loved this novel!  It was a compelling, hard hitting, and emotional read.  The situations and questions that Jesus Jackson entails are subjects that countless people, especially teens, go through.  Doubts show up in young, and even old, minds and challenge the reality of God and his presence.  We believe that Daley addresses these subjects so well and creates a book rich with universal truths.  Faith is believing without seeing, and this is the reality that all Christians face.  Is it possible to prove that God is there scientifically with a one hundred percent guarantee that everyone will believe it?  Of course, the answer is no.  This system of reasoning is exactly what's eating and is so hard for Jonathan to see through.

The big question that kept being presented in the story was, if Ryan died and Jon doesn't believe in God then where did Ryan go after he died?  Heaven can't be an option because atheists don't believe in Heaven, and the idea of black nothingness is not very comforting to him.  For this reason, we see an internal struggle within our protagonist as he figures out what he believes.  We feel as though Daley was very honest with this character.  Jon felt so real, and we like to think that this was a fabulous portrayal of how a teen would react in this situation.  His journey was an honest one, full of earnest feelings and gut wrenching heart ache.  The dull attitude and then profound consumption of despair that overtakes Jonathan was well felt by the reader and expertly written.  

Jesus Jackson was one of our favorite characters in the story.  No one knew of him but Jonathan, leaving a mysterious trail about the origin of this man who bears the same name as Christ.  He had such profound thoughts and ideas to tell Jon towards the end of the book and they were very thought provoking.  However, I would like to point out that this book does not shove religion and Christian views in the reader's face in such a fashion that it becomes preachy and overbearing. . It's simply an aspect to Jesus Jackson that is approached in the gentlest and deepest of ways.

Overall, we proudly recommend this book to all young adults and even older and younger readers to pick up this book and give it a try.  While you may not become hooked right away, give it one hundred pages and you will be whisked away into Daley's amazing masterpiece.  If you haven't checked out the book trailer yet, it's amazing! Watch it, read the book, and hopefully experience what we felt!

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