On the Way to San Jose, by Jere’ M. Fishback
Publisher: Ninestar Press
Release Date: September 25, 2017
Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars
Terrence, a socially inept clarinetist whose driver’s license is suspended, needs his panel van driven from Orlando to San Jose, where he plans to start a new life. Levi’s a Stanford University student with Asperger’s Syndrome who answers Terrence’s Internet drive-away listing.
The two start out as strangers, but as their journey westward progresses a friendship is kindled, one that will change both boys’ lives in profound ways.
Strangers to Lovers
When given this ARC I was warned this wasn’t a romance which I think was smart but still didn’t help me determine what this book was exactly. Levi, we know from the blurb has Asperger’s, and when the book starts, Levi has managed to get a girl he dates over the summer pregnant which is something that is heavy on Levi’s mind during the entire story. Basically, Levi wants out of any fatherly duties, he doesn’t want the kid and since he has college plans (he’s returning to California to continue his education) and can’t afford to pay child support, he believes that since he wanted the girl to get an abortion and she didn’t, he shouldn’t be responsible. His family doesn’t have the money to assist him with paying child support while he’s in school, so basically, he’s opting out. While I understand we were supposed to possibly sympathize with Levi since he had Asperger’s, I could not because being adopted myself (my stepfather adopted me as my biological father opted out of the parenting process) I instantly hated his guts.
Levi decides to answer an ad that Terrance has posted seeking help to drive his van across the country, so he can live with his boyfriend who he met online. Terrance is barely out of high school, gay and also making unwise life choices. Terrance has been speaking with an older gentleman online for a few months and decides to go to California to live with him though they’ve never met. This is also Terrance’s first time out of the state and his first real relationship. The kid has no plan and the entire time I read the book I just kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. Honestly, the whole book I was waiting for “something BAD to happen”. Terrance actually turned out to be the character that interested me the most, BUT I honestly didn’t feel I knew him very well by the end of the book.
During the ride, there is a third (semi-main) character introduced, Jacob. He’s a teenage runaway that they pick up hitchhiking and kind of take under their wing. They very quickly find out the teen is a minor and they try to do right by him and keep him out of trouble to the best of their ability. Honestly…I could not for the life of me decide after reading the book why Jacob was introduced. The span of time the three spend together is extremely short. Jacob, while adding an interesting element to the story, in the end, I felt was more of a distraction that didn’t allow Levi and Terrance to build up to a friendship/relationship that made any sense to me.
So without giving anything away, the book ended up being more frustrating than anything else. It’s not a romance but what was it exactly? I wasn’t sure what my take away was supposed to be. It seemed to be a story with no clear purpose to me. Other than Jacob (who was really a throwaway character as this was written) I didn’t really care for any of the characters. Was I supposed to think of Levi as a victim being taken advantage of by a girl who got pregnant and insisted he take some responsibility? Was I supposed to want him to shrink those responsibilities by telling her that Terrance was his gay boyfriend and have her flee because she didn’t want her unborn child exposed to queerness? Another thing that perplexed me was how queerness was woven into this book. It felt like a tool…but for what purpose? It definitely wasn’t incorporated into the story in any way that made me feel anything but uncomfortable.
Jere’ M. Fishback is a former journalist and trial lawyer. He writes novels, novellas, and short fiction. He has also written a memoir, “Hydrangeas” appearing in the “Homegrown in Florida” anthology published by University Press of Florida in 2012.
Jere’s novel “Josef Jaeger” won first place in the Young Adult category in the 2010 international Rainbow Award competition. And Jere’s novel “Tyler Buckspan” took second place in the YA category in the 2013 Rainbow Awards.
In 2014, “Tyler Buckspan” was one of twenty novels chosen by the American Library Association’s Rainbow Project as “recommended reading” for teenage LGBTQ readers. “Tyler Buckspan” is now on the shelf at many public libraries through the U.S. and Canada.
Jere’s anthology, “Troubling Tales from Florida”, is a collection of dark tales Jere’ penned over the course of eight years. Included is “Crawford Creek”, which won the 2007 “best of conference” award for short stories at the Writers in Paradise conference at Eckerd College.
In December 2014 Prizm Books released Jere’s Edgy Young Adult novel, “Becoming Andy Hunsinger”, available in both digital and print versions, set in the mid-1970s when Anita Bryant’s homophobic “Save Our Children” campaign raged in Florida.
In May 2016, Dark Hollows Press released Jere’s novel, “The House on Fremont Drive” which deals with multiple issues: coming of age, homosexuality, child abuse, mysticism, and racism. “The House on Fremont Drive was a finalist in the 2016 Rainbow Awards competition in the General Fiction category.
And in September 2016, Createspace has published Jere’s novel, “Dodging a Pearl”, a story of addiction and downfall, redemption and love, high-stakes litigation and justice for the wronged.
Jere’ lives on a barrier island west of his birthplace, St. Petersburg, FL.
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I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.