The Great Gatsby Reinvented, But Not Replaced

Korman, Gordan. Jake, Reinvented. New York, NY: Hyperion Books, 2005.


Imagine you’re a high school student. Now, imagine that your high school American literature teacher is asking you to imagine that you are in the 1920’s just like Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby. They ask, “What clothes are you wearing? What do the homes look like? What do the cars look like?”

Difficult, isn’t it? As a student, you are engrossed in the context and environment that surrounds you. It is painstakingly difficult to imagine a time ninety years ago.

Let’s try this instead. Again, imagine that you’re a high school student, but instead of asking you to imagine the culture of the 1920’s, the teacher asks you to imagine that last weekend’s party. “Whose home was it at? What did you do there? What kind of food did you eat? What kinds of drinks did they serve? What happened? Most importantly, “Who was there?”

It is in this aspect that Gordon Korman’s Jake, Reinvented instantly becomes more accessible for students. The setting is based in an environment that is not so seemingly foreign to them, yet the characters and their personalities seem like doppelgangers to Fitzgerald’s originals. The students are reading a book where they understand the trials and tribulations of popularity, crushes, and high school in general. Because of the strikingly similar plots and characters, Jake, Reinvented proves itself to be an adequate tool in understanding the classic piece The Great Gatsby.

Written through the perspective of high school student Rick Paradis, the novel follows the story of Jake Garret, a newcomer to F. Scott Fitzgerald High, who throws the biggest and best parties, thus garnishing him with immense popularity. Everything is going perfectly for Jake until a long lost love, Didi, reenters his life, who just happens to be the school quarterback's girlfriend. At this point Rick must choose sides between his new friend Jake and his longtime best friend, Todd. Girls, boys, relationships, and popularity will all change that which was once a like-minded group. People will choose sides. Alliances will be formed. Friendships will be tested. The consequences will be explosive, and F. Scott Fitzgerald High will be be changed, even, as is often the case in high school, if it doesn't really show up in the hall.

Recommendations for Teachers

Jake, Reinvented is recommended for teachers to use as a teaching aid for The Great Gatsby. It is not, however, recommended to replace Gatsby. It would be beneficial to take passages out of Jake, Reinvented and ask the students to compare them with similar passages from Gatsby or even use in the form of literature circle along with reading Gatsby as a class. Since Jake, Reinvented is an accessible novel it would not be difficult to read alongside Gatsby and could also prove to help the students understand the main concepts and themes. Using this novel as a comparison tool would be more beneficial than using is as a replacement, because the students will still have read the classic work and be able to improve their compare/contrast skills.

If used as a side-by-side treatment of Gatsby it would be most beneficial to read them at the same time and since Jake is a short and accessible text, this would not be difficult to accomplish. To structure this, it would be best to have the students read the paralleled chapters at the same time. This side-by-side treatment could spark interesting discussion and journal questions such as, "Discuss the difference in scenery between high school and the 1920's." "Are there any similarities in the lives of the main characters? If so, what are they?" "Which book do you feel more comfortable reading and why?" These questions are just examples of the many that could be used to help students grasp the underlying concepts of Gatsby.

Since the two novels are written in different tenses, the students could use this work to form opinions as to why The Great Gatsby was written in the present tense and why Jake, Reinvented was written in the past tense. By pointing out the differences between the two novels, the students could learn how to notice such differences in other works.

Additionally, as shown below, multimedia projects have become popular for teaching Gatsby because they effectively engage the students within the material more so than traditional new criticism techniques would do so. See below in the multimedia section for an example of a music video and a movie trailer that combines elements of the book with thematic components that were used as performance task assessments. Both were produced by students at high school levels.

About Gordon Korman

GordonKormanColor.jpg“I always start off with something real, but then I unleash my imagination to make it funnier, more interesting, and 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.”--Korman

This Canadian author has written and published over 50 books from his very first at the age of 15 with This Can’t be Happening at Macdonald Hall. Scholastic ended up publishing his first 20 books. Scholastic and Hyperian Press continue to publish his young adult novels to this day. He began writing humorous young adult novels at first but quickly jumped to writing suspense with his first trilogy called Island. This trilogy he feels was the most difficult to write out of his entire bibliography.
Korman relocated himself to New York to study film and film writing where he met his wife. Although he has published a hefty amount of young adult literature and children's books he is signed on to write several more young adult novels and complete a series of fictional works entitled On the Run. Today he continues to write and participate in various book tours. He and his wife reside in Long Island, New York with their three children.

Multimedia (Video or Audio)

Gordan Korman discusses Pop, and how his personal experiences with football, inspired him to write the novel.

Teachers who are using Jake, Reinvented alongside Gatsby may be interested in using other forms of media as a look at how Gatsby is relevant in a variety of contexts, and how its themes have real-world implications. "Daisy's Lullaby" is a music video that uses Gatsby's plot as the basis of their work. As one viewer comments, "If our English teacher showed us this before we read the book, instead of after, I might have actually read the book, instead of sparknotes."

A movie trailer produced by an AP English student for her class. This is a good example of a project that could accompany reading the novel.

Additional Resources:

Gordan Korman's Official Website -- Jake, Reinvented author, Gordan Korman's, official website complete with upcoming works, blog, and appearances.
readwritethink -- A great tool for educators looking to teach compare and contrast in their classroom.
Stratford High School -- A unit plan for Jake, Reinvented
Critical Theory Today -- GVSU Professor Lois Tyson's book explores the often difficult world of critical theory using The Great Gatsby as its guiding force. A great tool for teachers who are looking to differentiate instruction for higher-performing students, or for those interested in, or picking up, on different themes and aspects of the text-- the alternative reading portion of literature. It is also a great resource for teachers who need help deciphering the text more clearly.
Understanding //The Great Gatsby// -- This guide contains a variety of resources for students and teachers alike in all things Gatsby.
Information on F. Scott Fitzgerald -- This site contains information about Gatsby's life and provides a variety of resources and information surrounding the author, some free, and others linking to films and items available for purchase.
//Gatsby// Hyper-Concordance -- This online concordance is useful when students are studying Fitzgerald's use of language throughout the novel.
The Stellar Book Award -- Teen reviews of Jake, Reinvented showing mixed reviews from the book's intended audience.
//The Great Gatsby// Audiobook -- With a library card and some simple software, teachers and students have access to the audiobook for use in class, or when reading alone.
YABC-- Young Adult Book Central contains other reviews for Jake, Reinvented.

--Elizabeth Edwards
--Cameron Kuiper
--Samantha Slankard

This literature circle has also reviewed //The Book Thief//