Robinson, Mansbach and Knight. Jake the Fake Keeps it Real
March 28th 2017 by Crown Books for Young Readers
ARC provided by the publisher
Jake has auditioned for the Music and Arts Academy that his sister Lisa attends, but feels that he got in because he cheated on the test. The song he played for the audition is the only one he knows, so he doesn't feel that he really belongs. This feeling is reinforced when he meets the other students who do have special skills. The teaching methods at the school are a bit unorthodox, but he likes his teacher, Mr. Allen, well enough, and the food in the cafeteria is phenomenally good. His best friend from his old school, Evan, listens to his tale of woe and tells Jake that he's doing it all wrong. The two decide that if Jake really wants to fit in, he has to be weird. Jake starts acting on this, starting a sculpture of garbage in the cafeteria that gets him in trouble briefly-- for not working on it in the proper place. Jake uses his new philosophy to try to be successful at No Instruments Music Class and the other activities, although he is very worried about the obligatory talent show. Will Jake realize what his true talent is in time?
Strengths: It's great to see a Notebook Novel with a character of color, and this follows the formula for a successful book quite well. Jake is a well-meaning but insecure character, he has a supportive family, his school and friends are quirky, and there are lots of funny situations. I appreciated that there is a plot (will his lack of talent be found out?) as well as character development. The portrayal of an arts magnet school was fairly realistic.
Weaknesses: This had moments of unrealistic quirkiness, but my students will not be bothered by them.
What I really think: This one will be popular with middle grade students, and falls somewhere in between the Big Nate books (Which I adore.) and the Wimpy Kid books (Which needs plots. And character development.).What I would really like to see is a series of Notebook Novels done by Robb Armstrong, who writes Jump Start.