Substandard television has never been funnier than in this novel about a smart and sarcastic teen’s attempt to remake her public image and restore inner peace by posing as a community college student in a low-budget reality show.
"Jane Sinner snarked her way into my heart, and she's never leaving. Prepare to fall hard for this hilarious, heartfelt gem of a book."—Becky Albertalli, author of Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda
It’s Kind of a Funny Story meets Daria in the darkly hilarious tale of a teen’s attempt to remake her public image and restore inner peace through reality TV. The only thing 17-year-old Jane Sinner hates more than failure is pity. After a personal crisis and her subsequent expulsion from high school, she’s going nowhere fast. Jane’s well-meaning parents push her to attend a high school completion program at the nearby Elbow River Community College, and she agrees, on one condition: she gets to move out.
Jane tackles her housing problem by signing up for House of Orange, a student-run reality show that is basically Big Brother, but for Elbow River Students. Living away from home, the chance to win a car (used, but whatever), and a campus full of people who don't know what she did in high school… what more could she want? Okay, maybe a family that understands why she’d rather turn to Freud than Jesus to make sense of her life, but she'll settle for fifteen minutes in the proverbial spotlight.
As House of Orange grows from a low-budget web series to a local TV show with fans and shoddy T-shirts, Jane finally has the chance to let her cynical, competitive nature thrive. She'll use her growing fan base, and whatever Intro to Psychology can teach her, to prove to the world—or at least viewers of substandard TV—that she has what it takes to win.
I’m not a particularly good daughter, but I sat through a month of therapy for my parents’ sake. I’d like to think they got more out of it than I did. Couldn’t have been too hard. Any system that requires the patient’s family to pay someone else to care about her is fundamentally flawed. But I digress. If my decision to stop attending therapy means James Fowler High School no longer welcomes me as a student, I guess that’s on me.
The novelty of playing hooky has worn off, and I’m desperate to fill my time with something other than introspection, the occasional afternoon stocking groceries, and Mario Kart.
Bonnie just texted me. She wants me to burst through the clouds like the beautiful ray of sunshine that I am and come to a party tonight where everyone is apparently super super stoked to see me again. I told her it’s too dangerous. I have been known to blind others with my relentlessly sunny disposition. I may be desperate for a change, but I’m not desperate enough to face a party full of ex-classmates. Bonnie is a better person than I will ever be, so she promised to stop by later for whatever garbage I’ll be binge watching on my laptop.
So that’s nice. It’s also nice to write in here. I haven’t written in this journal for months. It’s kind of funny that the only time I don’t write in here is when a therapist says I should. But I needed a break from myself. Understandably, I think.
Ditching school five months before grad isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It’s too late to catch up now. I dropped the ship, that ball has sailed, Jane Sinner has left the building. Everyone is still a little scared to ask what I’m going to do now because they know I have no fucking clue. The parents certainly didn’t see this coming. They’re still scrambling to find “the window God must have opened, since he closed this particular door.” I’m old enough to close doors on my own, thank you very much. But the parents don’t want to hear that. They want to hear me say, “Why yes, I’d love to come with you to church this morning.” Not “I can’t, I have to catch up on a variety of reality television shows.”
They thought if Bonnie came over for lunch after the service, it would encourage me to at least shower and put on a bra by the time they got home. It didn’t.
Apparently, Bonnie’s fashion choices are rubbing off on Carol. They both decided to wear skinny jeans and fluorescent baggy sweaters to church, which annoyed the parents. Carol kept getting her sleeve caught in her lasagna while we ate.
I wish you would have come with us this morning, Jane.
You used to love going to church.
I also used to love running around half-naked with crayons up my nose because I thought they looked like fangs. I take comfort in knowing people can change.
You know, the best way to move on is to get back in the swing of things. There’s nothing wrong with taking some more classes. You could use more structure in your life. Some order.
It’s like he didn’t even notice that I had divided my salad into a rainbow of vegetables.
You’re meowing up the wrong tree.
Barking, Jane. It’s barking up the wrong tree.
Cats chase small animals up trees too, you know.
Yeah, well. You don’t want to end up like your Aunt Gina, Jane. You can’t make a decent living for your kids by sitting at home all day, “being funny” and writing Lord knows what for the internet.
I don’t have kids, Dad.
Oh, please. Can’t we all just get along for one meal? Bonnie, how have you been lately? Is school going well for you?
I guess that’s why they invited her over. Not only is she a conversational buffer, she’s also a reminder that even bisexual girls with tattoos can have their shit together, so why don’t I?
Yeah, school is going okay, I guess. We all miss Jane.
Janie’s gonna go to community college instead. That’s what the guidance counselor thinks she should do, anyway.
Oh really? She didn’t mention that to me.
That’s because I’m not going.
[rolling her eyes]
Well, you can’t just not go back to school!
Thanks, Obvious McObviouspants.
Well. You can at least go to the information session tomorrow. It’ll be good for you to explore your options.
We talked to Pastor Ron this morning, and he thinks that finishing your diploma at Elbow River is a good idea.
The parents are Pastor Ron’s biggest fans, so if he thinks an idea is good, my parents think it’s great. I think he’s all right (for a pastor), but I’m not convinced he’s the most qualified authority figure in my life, considering that my apathy toward his church was the domino that broke the camel’s back. I’d tell the parents that, but they get frustrated when I use idioms incorrectly.
"Dry, witty, and compulsively readable, this debut, told through Jane’s journal entries, is by turns funny and truly emotional."
— Booklist, starred review
"Resplendent with sardonic wit...this debut novel is at turns wickedly funny and thought-provoking. Character-driven, humorous and deceptively profound." — Kirkus
"[Nice Try, Jane Sinner] is witty with a fresh narrative voice. It is rare to find a YA book that discusses faith and religion, but Oelke handles Jane’s religious questioning in an authentic way...Readers will enjoy rooting for her on House of Orange and in life."
— School Library Journal
"Debut novelist Oelke has created a complex and entertaining heroine in Jane, who narrates in sharp-edged, caustically funny journal entries."—Publishers Weekly
"Get ready for the raunchiness, drama and cringe-worthy obsession that comes with reality TV in this cheeky Canadian import."—BCCB
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