Modern Day Gatsby

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

JakeReinvented.jpg Will high school students go too far to achieve ultimate popularity? Are the kids that walk the halls of high schools really ranked based on how "cool" they are? Will the football jocks always remain on the top of the social hierarchy? This seems to be the case in Jake Reinvented, a modern-day version of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. Written by Gordon Korman, Jake, Reinvented is the ultimate portrayal of how teenagers can make themselves crazy trying to achieve popularity. The parties thrown by Jake Garrett were extravagant, and he lived by the motto "Everything's fine as long as everybody's drinking." Though the issues presented in the book, such as alcohol, drugs, and sex, are relevant to teenagers, the way in which these issues were portrayed in the novel was completely over-the-top.

The parties in the original Great Gatsby were without a doubt extravagant. However, these parties were set in an atmosphere filled with wealthy adults, which made the situations believable. The parties that were shown in Jake, Reinvented were extravagant as well, however they were harder to believe as they were being thrown by a teenager and not a well-to-do adult. Furthermore, it is absolutely impractical to believe that, in this day and age, teenagers in a suburban neighborhood would be able to get drunk every Friday night in a parent-less house with an endless supply of kegs and pizza. Of course teenagers drink, but the extent to which this drinking is represented in the book is overly-exaggerated. Though Korman made a valiant effort to portray Jay Gatsby in a modern, young-adult setting, his attempt just didn't work.

What does make this book worthwhile is that the reader is able to draw obvious parallels between Jake, Reinvented and its adult counterpart, The Great Gatsby. Not only are there plot similarities, but likenesses in the descriptions, settings, and writing style as well. Though it may be worth it to check out Jake, Reinvented as a study tool for The Great Gatsby, there are few other reasons. With seemingly unnecessary characters, larger-than-life depictions of high school parties, and an abrupt and somewhat cliche ending, the book doesn't do much except stretch the reader's imagination of high school life. Perhaps the readers should avoid Jake, Reinvented and just stick with the original.

Recommendations for Teachers
Teachers should consider reading this novel side-by-side with F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. Setting, descriptions, and the use of language make for a worthy comparison. Students may also choose to discuss which situations work/don't work in the modern and in the classic setting. The teaher may also choose to read Jake, Reinvented after the completion of The Great Gatsby to aid in comprehension.

As every student will develop an opinion about the characters in the book, character expectations would be an interesting method of exposing these opinions. After reading the first couple of chapters of the book, have the students create character expectations for Jake, Didi, Rick, Jennifer, Todd, and Dipsy. These expectations should start with "I think that Todd will..." or "I hope that Dipsy will...". However, students could also use sentences such as "I'm scared/excited/worried/happy that...". Save the expectations and go over the predictions after the class has finished reading the book.

Setting plays a very important role in this book. Give the students an open-ended prompt asking them to "describe an important setting in the book". They may choose Jake's house, the hallways at school, or the football field. Compare the descriptions of each specific setting, focusing on what the students remembered about a particular setting and discuss these in class.

Work diligently to get your students to relate to the book. Use free-writing as an exercise to see how the students feel about a particular issue or situation in the book. For instance, "Have you ever felt less "cool" or less accepted because of a club or team you've joined?"

Physical appearance and status are two huge factors in this book. Jake is described as looking like he came straight out of the J. Crew magazine and Didi is said to stop any boy dead in his tracks. Because he's a football star, Todd is the most influential guy at school. It would be interesting to see how the students in your classroom picture these characters. What is their idea of the perfect face or who embodies the star quarterback? Use picture mapping and illustration to have your students create faces for the main characters in the book. These pictures can be drawn or cut out of a magazine. Have the students share their illustrations in class and support their decisions for choosing a certain picture or drawing a character/setting in a particular way.

What to know about Gordon Korman
Gordon Korman
Gordon Korman

Gordon Korman is a Canadian native and author who has published more than fifty books. He wrote his first novel, This Can't Be Happening at Macdonald Hall, at the age of twelve for an English assignment in seventh grade. The book ended up being published by Scholastic Press by the time Korman was fourteen and published more than a handful of other novels before he even graduated from high school; such as Beware the Fish, Losing Joe's place and Go Jump in the Pool.

During elementary and middle school, Korman very much enjoyed writing. He liked making up his own stories, and has said "I wasn't a big reader for some reason...but I always tried to put in creativity where I could: if we had (to write) a sentence with all the spelling words for that week, I would try to come up with the stupidest sentences, or the funniest sentences, or the craziest sentences I could think of."

Korman also received many awards for his outstanding talent in writing young adult literature. By age seventeen he received the Air Canada Award for promising authors in Canada and that was only the beginning of his achievements. In 2004 he won an award for Jake, Reinvented by the American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults. His achievements in the creativity of writing novels have greatly increased and Gordon Korman continues to write young adult novels to this day, most recently publishing Framed in September of 2010.
(Portions of this biography were taken from Scholastic online cite online cite and image was taken from google image-Gordon Korman)

Multimedia (Video or Audio)
Whoopi Goldberg hosts an interview with Gordon Korman on The 39 Clues series in which he wrote the second and eighth books of the series.

This video has Gordon Korman giving a brief background on Pop and his lack of love for football during his childhood and then once he got to college he developed a greater love for the sport.


Additional Resources:
Conversations with Gordon Korman Watch videos of Gordon Korman interviews, talking about his novels, his childhood, how his "writing career" began, etc.
//Jake, Reinvented// Review Read about another readers review on the book and better understand what the book portrays based on another's review.
List of Gordon Korman Books If you are interested in more books by Gordon Korman, this gives a list of all of his work, categorized by series and non-series.
Meet Gordon Korman This is a very helpful and interesting site to look at if you plan on teaching the book in a classroom but also hear Gordon Korman in an interview of him talking about The 39 Clues.
//The Great Gatsby// Summary This link is a well developed summary by other students of the famous novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald for those who may not be familiar with the book that Jake, Reinvented is based on.
Unit Plan on //Jake Reinvented// An extremely in depth and well developed unit plan on teaching Korman's novel Jake, Reinvented and how to compare it to The Great Gatsby.
You Gotta BE the Book Check out some more interesting ways to get your students to be engaged readers from Jeffrey Wilhelm's book.
Chapter One View an excerpt of the first pages of Jake, Reinvented
Discussion Board See what students from other wikis think about Jake, Reinvented.
Teen Drinking Learn more about teen drinking and what you can do to stop it by visiting the Drug Free Action Alliance's page.

--Cami DenHartigh, Natalie Klocko, and Caitlin Dunn.