Clark, Kristin Elizabeth. Jess, Chunk, and the Road Trip to Infinity. Farrar, Straus and Giroux BYR. 2016. $17.99. 272p. HC. 9780374380069.
Jess’s father is getting married in Chicago, and at the last minute Jess decides to drive across the country with her best friend Chuck to be at the wedding. The only thing is, Jess’s father thinks she’s not coming. Also, her father thinks Jess is a boy, not a girl.
This was an unusual story involving a trans* character, in that the book wasn’t focused on the trans* character realizing she was trans* or beginning her transition. Jess was already out to the important people in her life – her mom, her dad, her best friend – and she had graduated from high school and was in the process of transitioning so she could begin college as a girl. The story, instead, is about Jess coming to terms with her parents’ divorce, her father’s remarriage, and the fact that maybe, just maybe, she might have feelings for her best friend.
It is refreshing to find a book that features a trans* character and is about things other than her transition. Also, having driven the I-80 route from the Bay Area to Chicago three times already, I can attest that the author got the details perfect, from the stop in Elko, NV, to the random tree installation in the middle of Utah to the fake fort in North Platte, NE. The characters are made more real by their imperfections; Jess is *a little* self-centered and Chuck calls her on it; he is bothered that she doesn’t even think to ask him about his life, his other friends, and what he may be struggling with (like the nickname she gives him which he really, truly does not appreciate). Jess makes more than a few fat-shaming comments throughout the story, but again, Chuck calls her out on it and she starts to realize what she’s done.
This book will easily appeal to teen fans of road-trip stories and would be an excellent addition to a public library’s teen collection.
Reviewer: Jenni Frencham
Youth Services Director, Columbus (WI) Public Library