Jerry Spinelli is a well-known and prolific writer of children’s stories, most notably Maniac Magee for which he won the Newbery Medal in 1990, and Wringer, which won a Newbery Honor in 1998. Jake and Lily is his latest work and is scheduled for release this spring.
Jake and Lily is the story of 10-year-old twins who have arrived at a pivotal season in their twin-ness — they each must learn how to become an individual and how to create a life separate from their twin.
It is the beginning of summer vacation and their parent’s have decided it is time for them to have separate bedrooms. Soon thereafter, easy-going Jake quickly carves out a life of his own and buddies up with a pack of bicycle-riding neighborhood boys, leaving hot-headed Lily to feel dumped, lonely – and mad!
Without Jake, Lily doesn’t quite know what to do with herself. With the encouragement of her grandfather, Lily tries to find friends and interests of her own, but with no success. She has a sleepover that goes badly, she tries various arts and crafts, but nothing fills the hole Jake has left behind. But Jake’s efforts at becoming an individual are troubled too. When he discovers that his neighborhood friend is a bully, he has to figure out what kind of individual he’s going to be.
On the whole, this is a terrific plot and could have been a really wonderful story – there is hardly a topic more fascinating than twins. But in my view, this book missed the mark.
One of the big issues for me is that all throughout the story, 10-year-old kids say “crap” and use other low language that doesn’t bring anything good to the story or the reader. It doesn’t make the story more authentic, it doesn’t make it funny; it just seems to be gratuitous. For that reason alone I would not recommend this book. (Note to publishers: I will not buy my son any book with the following words in the title: stupid, fartsalot, underpants, poop, idiot, butt.)
The other issue I have with this book is that the author uses the literary device of having the characters take turns speaking, as well as narrating alternate chapters, which given that they are twins “should” work, but I found it really hard to follow, especially in the beginning.
When I found this book in the box of books Harper Collins sent me to review, I was excited because my mother-in-law has a boy twin and they have another set of boy-girl twin siblings two years ahead of them, so I really expected I would like this book. I am disappointed to report that I did not — although I think the average 4th or 5th grader might.