John McCormack

John McCormack is an educator who has helped shape young minds for over thirty-five years. A graduate of Iona College and The Ohio State University, he spent most of his career teaching in both junior and senior high schools in locations from Chicago, Illinois to Rockland County, New York. He is a winner of the Golden Apple Award from Channel 13 in New York City for his outstanding contributions to Learning Link.

McCormack was inspired to write his young adult novel Jamaal’s Journey by the closeness and enthusiasm he enjoyed with  ...See more >

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"A genuine, upbeat bildungsroman of African-American high school life."

Kirkus Reviews


Named to Kirkus Reviews' Best Books of 2015: Jamaal's Journey

Beverly Hills International Book Awards: Finalist, African-American Fiction, 2015: Jamaal's Journey

Kirkus Indie Book of the Month Selection, April 1, 2015: Jamaal's Journey

Reader's Favorite: Winner of the Finalist Award for African-American Fiction in 2015, 2015: Jamaal's Journey

The National Indie Excellence Finalist Award for African-American Fiction in 2015, also The Award Winning Finalist in the Fiction: "African-American" category of the 2015 International Book Awards, 2015: Jamaal's Journey

The San Francisco Book Festival Honorable Mention Award for YA in 2015, 2015: Jamaal's Journey

Hometown New York City

Favorite author Donald Spoto

Favorite book Reluctant Saint: St. Francis of Assisi

Favorite line from a book It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Favorite word bildungsroman

Unexpected skill or talent piano composer

Passion in life THE Ohio State Sports Program


Pub Date:
ISBN: 978-1500920180
Page count: 240pp

A debut YA novel of high school drama that’s just as rambunctious as its narrator.

Jamaal is a senior at Spring Valley High School, a veritable rainbow of ethnic diversity that he describes more than once as a colorful garden salad. He’s two months away from graduation and the adult responsibilities that loom beyond the school’s safe walls. He’s spent the last several years navigating his high school world, which is rich in social constructs and all the pitfalls they offer. It’s a place where one fights for identity in hallways and classrooms, where one defends one’s rank with physical force or a clever insult. Jamaal finds himself enamored of the gorgeous Taneeka, and he comforts her when he discovers how much she’s suffered since her mother’s suicide due to her father’s abuse. However, he also gets involved with Sandra, a Haitian girl whose straight-laced veneer covers up her smart, snappy personality, and he must determine with whom his heart lies. Meanwhile, he also tries to help his friend Steven, who’s dealing with poverty and addiction in his own family. McCormack’s novel moves at the pace of adolescent life, leaping from one event to the next in quick, anecdotal spurts. This verisimilitude will draw readers into the tumultuous, dramatic current of the characters’ social lives. The book occasionally slips into jokiness and repetition, but Jamaal’s wide-eyed earnestness redeems it. Although the story has a lighthearted tone throughout, it successfully takes up a number of difficult themes in oblique and direct ways, including the disparities of student performance due to socio-economic inequality, the pressure to act differently among teachers and among one’s peers, and the ethics of romantic obligations. These are by no means insignificant matters, and their appearances lend credence to the author’s apparent desire to capture what a subset of American high schoolers goes through every day.

A genuine, upbeat bildungsroman of African-American high school life.