Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers’ Favorite (5 Stars)
Jellybeaners is a Southern fiction coming-of-age novel written by Gene Scott. Samantha Walker had always enjoyed writing, but her newest assignment, which was to write a journal that Mr. Stephens, the school counselor, would read and then burn at year’s end, was a surprisingly satisfying experience. After Bo Wruck sabotaged her ride during a motocross race and left her with a broken collarbone, her death threats could have meant a stay in jail, so the journal had seemed a far better option. Bo Wruck was also writing a journal, something he had never envisioned being able to do, but he was finding that writing exactly how he spoke worked quite well. His probation officer had offered him the opportunity, and it had seemed the best way to get on with his professional racing plans. Both Sam and Bo lived in Kituwah Falls, a small historic town in rural Tennessee that had originally been a Cherokee trading post. Samantha was fascinated by history — and not only the history of her village and her Cherokee ancestors — she wanted to learn about the history of the country and the world. She wondered why kids were only taught the same old stories about the Mayflower and the pilgrims year after year. Sam had had a good life so far, even if she never knew her mother and her father died in the Middle East when she was very young. She had grown up alongside Jasper, her best friend, and her grandfather, Sarge, and Jasper’s dad, Cornelius, and shared with each them a love of the outdoors.
Gene Scott’s coming of age novel, Jellybeaners, follows the lives of two radically different high school seniors who just happen to be competitors in motocross. Reading their journals is a sheer delight especially that of Sam, who is wickedly smart, funny and, at times, frighteningly perceptive. But I wouldn’t give Bo’s journal short shrift as his upbringing has been far different than Sam’s. A major theme running through this novel is the growing opioid addiction in the US, particularly in the Southeast. Through his characters, Scott charts the growth of the illicit trade conducted by so-called Pain Management Centers and the bureaucratic corruption found at all levels of government; a combination which has resulted in a sharply rising number of opioid addicts and deaths from opioid abuse. Jellybeaners is a fascinating read. I loved following Sam and Jasper as they ride along mountain roadways and plan their futures, and learning about the natural beauty found in the book’s setting. Jellybeaners is most highly recommended.
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