Jake Reinvented

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

external image 0786856971.01.LZZZZZZZ.jpgJake Reinvented by Gordan Korman is a modern adaptation of the F. Scott Fitzgerald classic, The Great Gatsby. Korman takes the characters and events from Fitzgerald’s novel set in the Roaring ‘20s and transplants them into a modern American high school. Instead of being known for hosting the most extravagant parties of excess at a mansion for rich socialites, Jake hosts the largest weekend beer parties for his high school at his upscale suburban home. Not much is known about Jake other than that he is the coolest kid in school. He bonds with Rick, our narrator, almost immediately, and even Rick doesn't know why. It soon becomes clear that Jake is obsessed with Didi, the best friend of Jennifer, who Rick happens to be close with. He uses Rick to get Didi to his parties. Eventually it is revealed that Jake was a huge nerd in his old school. He was Didi's tutor and he fell in love with her, but she would never date him because he was such a geek. Jake reinvents himself for her benefit, and spends the entire book trying to get her to leave her popular football player boyfriend Todd. While she cheats on Todd with Jake, she still refuses to break up with him. Meanwhile, Jake's obsession for her keeps growing until finally he takes the blame for a crime she commits. While the ending of Jake Reinvented is not quite as tragic as The Great Gatsby, it is still a shock for anyone unfamiliar with the story. It is a story about the fine line between true love and obsession, and about what defines true friendship. Young readers will identify with the characters' struggles to find a place in the harsh world of high school in a way they never would with the unfamiliar setting of The Great Gatsby.

Advice for Teachers
Being a modern retelling of The Great Gatsby, Jake Reinvented is most beneficial when taught side by side with The Great Gatsby. There are some major plot differences as well as setting differences between the two stories, mainly in the endings. Ask your students why they think Korman decided to change the ending. Which ending do they think works best for the story? Make sure your students know the difference between a book and a story. They may not like Fitzgerald's writing style simply because it is a traditional book read in class, but do they prefer his story to Korman's? Why or why not?

Choose some parallel scenes between the two stories (such as the party scenes) and read them side by side. Compare the language and word choice, as well as the situations. Why do you think Korman changed the things he changed, or kept the things he kept?
Have your students choose another text they have read in class, and write a modern day version of it the way Korman did in Jake Reinvented. They can share it with the class, and help their classmates understand and relate to the texts a little better.

This book has some sexual situations that, while not graphic, make it more appropriate for high school classes rather than middle school. It also relies heavily on high school stereotypes. Ask your students how they feel about high schoolers being reduced to such one dimensional stereotypes. Are the characters realistic, do they know anyone like them? Have them think about golden boy jock Todd, shallow self-serving Didi, "it's all about me" Jennifer, or meathead Nelson. Was it realistic that the entire school turned on Jake just because he used to be a mathalete?

About Gordon Korman

Image source: gordonkorman.com
Image source: gordonkorman.com
Gordon Korman was born in Montreal, Quebec and began writing at a very young age. He wrote his first book, This Can't Be Happening at Macdonald Hall when he was only 12. Later the book was published by Scholastic who went on to publish his next 20 books. Moving into the states he settled down in New York, first in New York City. He began his studies in film and film writing. He also met the girl that would soon be his wife. They now live in Long Island and have 3 children. Up to this point he has written 55 books and is still in contract to write several more.

Korman is primarily a children's and young adult author. He is famous for his Bruno and Boots series. Many of his books come in series but he does have a few singles including Jake, Reinvented.

Gordon Korman Interview

The author of Jake Reinvented, Gordon Korman, sits down and talks about his beginning as an author and his book, "Swindle." Swindle is about a young boy who finds a Babe Ruth rookie card and brings it to a card dealer to find out if it is worth anything. The Card dealer lies to him and buys it for almost nothing, when in reality it is worth over $900,000. Watch this three and a half minute interview with Gordon Korman to find out more about the author and his book, "Swindle."

Additional Resources:
  • Controversial Coverage - A teacher in Arizona came under fire for assigning the book "Jake Reinvented" to her students.
  • Author's Official Website - Gordon Korman's official website, here you can find a list of all of his publications, upcoming events, frequently asked questions, reviews, contact information and much more.
  • Wikipedia - Wikipedia entry on Gordon Korman. You will find a short biography and a bibliography broken down into publications by series.
  • Stellar Award - Jake Reinvented was honored with the Stellar Book Award, which is decided by YA readers.
  • ALA Award - Jake Reinvented, among 84 other books, received the ALA 2004 Best Book for Young Adults Award.
  • Scholastic Biography - Scholastic provides a mixed interview/biography of Gordon Korman.
  • Boy Books - List of books by the Washington Post that they think will appeal to younger males. Korman makes the list along with Crutcher, London and many other great authors.
  • Fan Page - A page written by and for fans of Gordon Korman. Useful information about the author including a guestbook where fans can talk about him and his works.
  • Chapter One - Somewhat like a movie preview, you can go here and read the first chapter of "Jake Reinvented."
  • Spark Notes: The Great Gatsby - Great place to read about "The Great Gatsby" if you have never ventured into F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic.
  • YouTube: Fitzgerald - An 11 minute video about F. Scott Fitzgerald which first aired on PBS as part of a documentary.

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