Living with Jackie Chan
Author: Jo Knowles
Expected Publication: September 10th, 2013 by Candlewick Press
Summary: After fathering a baby, a teenager moves in with his karate-loving uncle and tries to come to terms with his guilt — and find a way to forgive.
This isn’t how Josh expected to spend senior year. He thought he’d be hanging out with his best friends, Dave and Caleb, driving around, partying, just like always. But here he is, miles from home — new school, new life, living with his Jackie-Chan-obsessed uncle, Larry, and trying to forget. But Josh can’t forget. So many things bring back memories of last year and the night that changed everything. Every day the pain, the shame, and the just not knowing are never far from his thoughts. Why is he such a loser? How could he have done what he did? He finds some moments of peace when he practices karate with Stella, the girl upstairs and his one real friend. As they move together through the katas, Josh feels connected in a way he has never felt before. He wonders if they could be more than friends, but Stella’s jealous boyfriend will make sure that doesn’t happen. And maybe it doesn’t matter. If Stella knew the truth, would she still think he was a True Karate Man? Readers first met Josh in Jumping Off Swings which told the story of four high school students and how one pregnancy changed all of their lives. In this companion book, they follow Josh as he tries to come to terms with what happened, and find a way to forgive.
Ricki’s Review: Jumping off Swings is a favorite in my classroom, so I was very excited to read this companion text. I always wondered what happened to Josh, and this novel shows the other side of the story. In many ways, Jo Knowles makes this story unpredictable for readers. When Josh meets Stella, the reader anticipates this novel will progress similarly to other novels with a budding romance. But instead, the two characters develop a deep, meaningful friendship that feels much more important than a love connection. Stella’s mother neglects her, and she submits to her boyfriend’s emotional abuse. In a way, she needs healing just as badly as Josh does. Larry, at first, seems to be a minor character with his goofy grin and karate moves, but as the story progresses, his depth of character is apparent. He isn’t a secondary character who plays second fiddle. Instead, he drives Josh’s healing process. There is so much to think about and discuss in regards to this text. It is beautifully written, and the characters will stick with me.
Kellee’s Review: I can’t say enough great things about this novel as it helped me out of my latest reading slump! I also think it is interesting because I read Jackie Chan before reading Jumping Off Swings, and I think that may have changed my perspective. It is interesting to think about how the different order of reading can change how you view a book. I went in with no expectations because I didn’t even know what had happened to Josh, so I think that the reveal of that secret was bigger for me than if I’d read it in the other order. Because I was naive about the past, I went in with no past feelings for Josh and really just hoping for the best for him. I found myself struggling with him and crying with him because his hurt was so deep. Though Stella and Larry enter his life, I didn’t think he’d let them in, but instead, they become a huge part in him healing. I really loved Living with Jackie Chan (as well as Jumping off Swings which I read immediately after finishing Jackie Chan). Jo Knowles always impresses me with her ability to tell tough stories in ways that makes it so that the reader can connect.
Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: This is a great text to teach internal conflict. Josh has extremely low self-esteem and blames himself for his decisions. He goes through various stages of grief and tries a variety of coping mechanisms, many of which are unsuccessful. Teachers might have students research the stages of grief and various coping mechanisms that can be used with internal conflicts and relate them back to specific scenes from the text.
Discussion Questions: How does karate play an important role in Josh’s character development?; What stages of grief does Josh go through?; Do you think Josh is morally good? Do you think he should be judged for his mistakes?; Does Britt seem truly remorseful for the way he treats Stella? How does karate play a role in Stella’s character development?; By the end of the novel, is Josh a True Karate Man? Why or why not?
We Flagged: “A true karate man lifts those who have fallen, no matter how low. I can imagine him thinking this as he looks at me. That he’s going to e a true karate man and get me out of this mess. But he doesn’t know everything that happened. He doesn’t know what I did. He doesn’t know how low I’ve gone.”
Please note: The above quote is from the Advanced Reader E-Galley and did not provide page numbers. The quotes may change when the book is published.
Read This If You Loved: Jumping off Swings by Jo Knowles, First Part Last by Angela Johnson, Personal Effects by E.M. Kokie, How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr, Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King
**Thank you to NetGalley and Candlewick Press for providing us with the Advanced Reader Copies!**