Korman Successfully "Reinvents" The Great Gatsby


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

Gordon Korman's Jake, Reinvented is a book loosely adapted from The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The book jacket states "There is a mysterious new student at F. Scott Fitzgerald High, Jake Garrett. He looks as though he just stepped off the cover of the J. Crew catalog; he is the best longjake.jpg-snapper the football team has ever had; and best of all, he hosts the party to go to every Friday night." While this may a seem fairly typical subject for a young adult novel, Korman's work succeeds on a variety of different levels. Korman creates a fabulous retelling of Fitzgerald's masterpiece by staying true to its basic story elements all the while making it more relatable to young readers by setting it in a high school permeated with typical adolescent attitudes, perceptions, and problems. Much of the story elements from The Great Gatsby are retained in Jake Reinvented except this time it involves Todd, the star quarterback, his beautiful girlfriend Didi, the backup quarterback Rick, and Jake, a transfer student who becomes a overnight celebrity partier and long snapper. Told through the eyes of the thoughtful Rick, readers take part in the mystery of Jake Garrett. His parties earn him instant fame and admiration from his schoolmates at F. Scott Fitzgerald High, but Rick soon learns that under Jake's cool exterior lurks silent secrets. When students begin to question the true Jake Garrett, Garrett’s false disguise slowly dwindles. Classmates turn on him and the perfect life that he created for himself deteriorates. Still, Garrett remains collected and focuses on his prime motivation, Didi. In the face of complete disaster, Garrett finds serenity in his love for Didi. Although his is willing to sacrifice all for the woman he loves, she does not return the same selfless love. A woman who cannot see past her own wants, needs and beauty has stolen Jake Garrets heart. Still, the question remains, will she be there for Jake when he needs her most.

Gordon Korman captures the life of a high school student with such precision and art throughout the book. He tells the story of what it means to reinvented oneself and start fresh; a dream of most high school students. Not only does he capture the high school tone, but Korman also writes of love, friendship, and popularity. While this book may catch the interest of many middle and high school students, it also compliments The Great Gatsby very well. Although alone it comes across as rather weak, when used in sequence with The Great Gatsby, this book is rich with possibilities. Jake, Reinvented is a story about love, friendship, and the desire to be transformed. Compelling in its' themes, this book recognizes what it it like to be an adolescent in today's society.




Recommendations for Teachers

While having merit as a young adult and free reading book, Jake, Reinvented does not really stand alone very well for educational purposes. Jake, Reinvented is instead best used in a classroom setting as a companion to The Great Gatsby. The book could be used both as a whole, or in sections, to supplement lessons on The Great Gatsby. In this capacity the book could have many uses within the classroom:
  • Comparison: One useful aspect of Jake, Reinvented is that it is set in a time and a place that students can relate to more easily than those of The Great Gatsby. In order to take advantage of this element of the book, students should be asked to make connections between and compare the two books. What do they see as the positive and negatives of each version of the story? Which version do they think creates more of an impact? Does anything in Jake, Reinvented help them to better understand what is happening in The Great Gatsby?
  • Reinvention: Reinvention is an idea that both describes the reinventing of the main character Jake in the book, and the fact that the book itself is a revinvention of The Great Gatsby. The idea of taking a popular story and changing it into something a little bit different is one that has existed for as long as the art of story telling has existed. Students could be asked to think about some other stories that they know of that have been reinvented. As an example, students could read the original Grimm's Fairytales versions of stories like Cinderella and Snow White and be asked to look at the differences between these stories and the Disney versions that they are more familiar with. Why do people reinvent stories like this? What do the students see as the driving forces of the reinvention of The Great Gatsby in this book? What are the changes that Korman made to the text and why do you think that he made them? As a writing assignment, students could be asked to reinvent a short story and make it their own.

When teaching this book teachers may want to keep in mind some of the socially unacceptable behavior exhibited in its pages. Jake, Reinvented touches on issues of teenage sexuality and underage drinking. These themes might be a bit too much for middle schoolers or even some high schoolers. Teachers should take into account the surrounding community when deciding whether or not to teach this book. The two-dimentional nature of some of the characters may also be troubling to some students as they seem to do nothing but perpetuate highschool sterotypes. This could, however, be used to the teachers advantage and start a discussion about highschool stereo types.



About Gordon Korman

http://www.scholastic.co.uk/zone/images/authors%20zone/g-korman_photo.jpg
http://www.scholastic.co.uk/zone/images/authors%20zone/g-korman_photo.jpg

(Photo courtesy of Scholastic.com)
When Gordon Korman was in 7th grade, one of his teachers was a track coach who found himself pressed into service teaching English. He told the students to work on whatever they wanted to write- and Gordon decided to write a book. When he was 14, Scholastic Books published his first novel, This Can’t Be Happening At MacDonald Hall, which evolved from that early manuscript. To date he has published approximately 65 novels.

His stories are "a combination between real life and pure imagination,” he states. “I always start off with something real, but then I unleash my imagination to make it more exciting, funnier, or a better story. To be honest, by the time a book is done, you can't recognize much of the real-life part. It's been changed too much. But I never could have gotten there without it.” He spends most of his days writing, working around the day-care schedules of his children. Korman spends approximately 6 months on each individual novel, and about 4 months for those that are part of a series.

Most of Korman's books are intended for either children or a Young Adult audience. Many of his books are part of a series, though he has written several stand alone books, such as Jake, Reinvented , Son of the Mob, Swindle, Born to Rock, and No More Dead Dogs. His most notable series is
Bruno and Boots.

Born in Montreal, Quebec, Korman grew up in Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada. He moved to New York to attend New York University and now makes his home in the village of Great Neck on Long Island, outside New York City. (Great Neck provided the backdrop for The Great Gatsby, troped by Fitzgerald as West Egg.)

Sources: Scholastic.com; www.gordonkorman.com; amazon.com



Multimedia

This multimedia video gives readers insight about the mottivations, strategies and skills that Korman uses for his novels. Along with a brief autobiographical statement, Korman also explains what he thinks young adult literature should represent. Korman's enthusiasm and passion for hid writing is illustrated throughout this video. It short, it shows readers a glimpse of the man who wrote, thought up, and created the novels that they love so much.





Additional Resources:

Gordon Korman Home page - The author's official web page, including a biography, listings of some of his books, FAQ's and more.
Answers.com- Gordon Korman- Excellent bio and listing of all of his books.
Goodreads - A number of reader reviews of Jake, Reinvented from teachers and students.
F. Scott Fitzgerald Page - A great page with a ton of information on Fitzgerald.
Full Text Gatsby - A link to a full text version of The Great Gatsby.
Jake Reinvented and the Classroom - This site gives example lesson plans on how to teach Jake through the internet and technology.
Teaching //The Great Gatsby// - Offers some starting ideas about how to go about teaching the The Great Gatsby.
Resources for a unit on //The Great Gatsby//- This site contains many different resources and ideas for teaching The Great Gatsby.
Lesson Plan - This links to a website with a lesson plan for The Great Gatsby which could be adjusted for use with Jake, Reinvented.
Connotation, Character and Color in The Great Gatsby - Another lesson plan for The Great Gatsby.
--By: Adam Kennedy, Blaine Sullivan, Branden Garner, Becca Thebo, and Elizabeth Longcore
Other Reviews By These Authors: Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers, and Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi