Can a scientific study explain jerk-ish behavior, and will it earn J.J. a passing grade?
After establishing that jerks existed in prehistory using cave paintings and throughout history using folk tales and children’s literature, eighth-grader J.J. Murphy explains the need for a scientific study of jerk-ishness and delineates the methods he’ll use, like “looking at things in a sciencey way.” He explains (kind of) general science terms as well as his own study-specific jargon and creates a scale he calls the Jerk-O-Meter, which runs from “normal” through “idiot” to “complete jerk”; he includes a nice scientific illustration of the meter. He then goes on to pose scientific questions: Can young children be jerks? Can the really, really old be jerks? (Only 6-year-olds and up, and definitely yes, respectively). He examines jerks in the family, in sports, in school and in the professional world to reach the conclusion that jerks have always existed and always will and that we can use scientific studies to identify and avoid jerks and their jerk-ishness. Canadian Hughes’ debut is constructed around the conceit that it is the actual science project that J.J. turns in. Though his voice rings true, the device wears thin quickly. With no through story to sustain it or continuing characters beyond the narrator, it’s an occasionally amusing collection of anecdotes.
Though it attempts Diary of a Wimpy Kid, it achieves lengthy science report. Skippable. (Fiction. 9-12)