Jake, Reinvented: Making Gatsby Relevant for High Schoolers

Gordon Korman. Jake, Reinvented. New York: Hyperion Books, 2003.

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Gordon Korman's Jake, Reinvented is a modern retelling of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby in a high school setting. The setting works quite well, as the social groups in the book are social groups commonly found in any high school and this makes the book easier for the average high schooler to relate to. Of course, this book in no way replaces Ftizgerald's masterpiece, however, it could be used quite well as a reading before tackling The Great Gatsby.

Recommendations for Teachers

In Jake Reinvented, Gordon Korman captures the interest of young adults through creating a story in which they can relate to for various reasons. This story is told through the perspective of Rick, a high school student at F. Scott Fitzgerald High. Through this character, Korman brings to life the story of the typical high school with the star quarterback (Todd) and also class clown (Dipsy). This story contains characters and situations that many high school students can relate to, which make it a powerful book for teachers to use in the classroom. The story is thrown when the new kid shows up (Jake) and grasps the attention of not only the student body at Fitzgerald High, but nearby schools as well. As the story continues and the reader learns more and more about Jake, he becomes a character that more and more students can relate to. While he turns into the cool kid who gets the girls and throws parties at Fitzgerald High, the reader learns about Jake's history as the Mathlete of the Year and chess champion at his previous school, as his previous self. This transition of learning who Jake was and who he has turned into is powerful because it allows for different students to relate to the characters and learn lessons from the story.

Many students struggle with some of the same issues addressed in this book, which helps tune them into the reading. Underage drinking is an issue that many high school students are faced with and may help engage them as readers. However, teachers must be aware of the messages they want to be sent to their students when deciding how to teach and help students understand this book. Some teachers may choose not to use this book due to the reoccurrence of underage drinking seen throughout.

One particular suggestion is that this book would work well in tandem with selected passages from The Great Gatsby if a classroom didn’t have time to devote to reading Ftizgerald's work in its entirety. Asking student’s to draw parallels from what they have read between the two texts and then free write to draw comparisons to their own lives would be a great way to intrigue readers. This technique is also a great way of supplementing the readers in the class who have difficulty reading at the level necessary to really delve into the world that Fitzgerald creates. Hopefully students will find that as they read Jake Reinvented and become more fascinated and involved in a world that is already familiar to them (the high school setting), they will find themselves wanting to read more of The Great Gatsby than just the excerpts provided in class. Also because of their vague understanding of the plot the students will be able to spend more time trying to connect with a world that is less familiar to them (namely the early 1900’s).

About Gordon Korman
Image from Scholastic.com

Gordon Korman was born on October 23, 1963 in Montreal, Canada. His first book, This Can’t be Happening at Macdonald Hall, was published when he was only 14 years old. Currently, Korman has over 65 novels published. Until 2001’s release of Island, Korman’s humorous style changed to become more action and suspense oriented.

In an interview with Scholastic magazine, Korman was asked what his secret to success was stating, “It’s a combination between real life and pure imagination…I always start off with something real, but then I unleash my imagination to make it more exciting, funnier, or a better story.”

Multimedia (Video or Audio)
Listen to Korman talk about how he got started writing and promoting another one of his Books.

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--- Sean Haak, Dustin Morley