Title: Jess, Chunk, and the Road Trip to Infinity
Author: Kristin Elizabeth Clark
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (Sold by Macmillan Publishing)
Pages: 272 Pages
Category: Teen Fiction, New Adult Fiction, LGBT Fiction
At a Glance: I’d recommend this for friends-to-lovers fans and trans fiction fans, alike.
Reviewed By: Ben
Blurb: The last time Jess saw her father, she was a boy named Jeremy. Now she’s a high school graduate, soon to be on her way to art school. But first, Jess has some unfinished business with her dad. So she’s driving halfway across the country to his wedding. He happens to be marrying her mom’s ex-best friend. It’s not like Jess wasn’t invited; she was. She just told them she wasn’t coming. Surprise!
Luckily, Jess isn’t making this trip alone. Her best friend, Christophe—nicknamed Chunk—is joining her. Chunk has always been there for Jess, and he’s been especially supportive of her transition, which has recently been jump-started with hormone therapy.
Along the way from California to Chicago, Jess and Chunk will visit roadside attractions, make a new friend or two, and learn a few things about themselves—and each other—that call their true feelings about their relationship into question.
Review: I liked this book. I was expecting something similar to literary fiction, where there is no good or bad guy, and everyone’s sort of fucked up—and I totally got what I wanted. This is mostly a character piece, and while I’d love to tell you who my favorite and least favorite characters were, I found myself liking and hating each character at some point in the novel, so I’m at a bit of an impasse.
Jess, the protagonist, is in the middle of a transition, and as most of us (who have undergone a transition) know, people can be very selfish during these times and, more often than not, extremely confused. Jess had a slew of problems. It’s possible I am a bit more understanding of her flaws, having gone through something similar, but there were times when I wanted to bop her on the head. She has some serious internalized issues she foists onto others, which holds her emotional development back. Admittedly, the deck is stacked against her, and I do have hope for her working through her baggage and becoming a better person.
Chuck—known as Chunk to Jess—was her best friend who I really liked at first, but then I think he fell victim to his lack of communication skills. On the road trip, Chuck was constantly berating Jess for not knowing anything about him (like the fact he’s pansexual and was bullied in high school), but when she broaches topics he could appropriately contribute his thoughts to, he changes the subject, or flat out refuses to answer.
It’s almost like he’s a real high school guy or something.
All joking aside, I did find that part of his character hard to tolerate, if only because I’ve had the experience of talking with these types of guys and it can be exhausting. You never know when to push for answers to show that you care, or when to leave things alone to give them time to come out with it themselves. As with Jess, I do have hope for him, though. They’re just kids, or new adults, rather. They have time.
Jess and Chuck are on their way to see Jess’s dad, who is getting married to Jess’s mom’s best friend… which is awkward at best. Damn. Already we sort of see Jess’s dad as a sleaze, but then we find out he’s the reason Jess couldn’t take hormones until she hit eighteen. Damn again. Seeing how the poor guy had so much stacked up against him, I found myself astonished that I sort of liked him in the end, which I think was ultimately part of the journey, and a clever device by Clark. Good job.
The biggest part of this story I wasn’t expecting was the ending, which had a love story sort of tacked on, and I wasn’t able to follow the redemption of Chuck and Jess’s characters to a satisfactory conclusion. That being said, even though the romance portion was a bit forced, and it would have been better without, I got what I wanted: a fun, fucked-up trans rite of passage story that left me with hope. I’d recommend this for friends-to-lovers fans and trans fiction fans, alike.
You can buy Jess, Chunk, and the Road Trip to Infinity here: