Title: The Answer Key is Wrong
Genre: Young Adult
The Answer Key is Wrong by djr follows the coming-of-age journey of Jessica Baker from her senior year of high school through what normally would be her college years. Always a rule follower, a straight-A student, and well behaved, Jessica is disenfranchised when she sees others cheating to get ahead and begins to wonder if all her good works even matter. In a huge act of rebellion, she takes her college financial aid money and uses it to backpack across Europe, under the guise of literary characters’ names she loves and without telling anyone but her best friend.
The Answer Key is Wrong is told in first-person point-of-view and in present tense. The author’s choice to share the narrative in this manner draws the reader right in with Jessica. We experience what she does in the moment and through her eyes, so the reader is well acquainted with her thoughts and actions, even if we, along with Jessica at times, wonder why she is making certain choices that are bound to have drastic consequences. Jessica is a gift of a character: highly flawed, realistic, and has an authentic voice. Many could relate to her desire to rebel after doing everything right. We all ask these difficult questions of what we are doing with our lives, why, and what we want…and ultimately if what we think we want will make us happy.
To elaborate on Jessica’s journey, her choices unfold each leg of her trip in Europe. As soon as the reader is falling in love with the characters she meets along the way in different locations, which Jessica herself also does, she flees to the next destination. Her fear of getting too attached to others drives her forward, and she keeps reinventing herself in every place she settles. The clincher that really impacts both Jessica and the reader is the fact that, at the end of it all, she is not happy. She has been living a lie, has hurt people she never intended to hurt, and she now has to live with herself.
The coming-of-age theme runs strong throughout Jessica’s tale. Many young adult novels are about overcoming and growing. Jessica’s biggest enemy is herself, and the self-versus-self conflict is compelling, deep, and worth investing in. Every page of Jessica’s story immerses the reader in her journey, and we cheer and cry for her, are happy and angry for and with her. The author has built a solid story about a character who finds her ultimate power in what she perceives as her weakness: simply being herself. That is all any of us can ever be if we are to be true to ourselves and ultimately find contentment in that truth rather than in lies.
Although the genre is young adult, The Answer Key is Wrong could also be considered literary fiction since it is heavy on themes, especially finding and accepting oneself.
There are a few shifts into past tense peppered throughout the normal present tense and a few minor grammatical and punctuation errors, but the manuscript as a whole is well edited, and these errors do not detract from the reader’s experience.
The Answer Key is Wrong is a strong, compelling coming-of-age novel. The theme of being true to oneself and being our own best person is at the forefront of this page-turning story. Jessica Baker is an interesting, relatable, and sympathetic protagonist who readers of all ages will understand on some level because we all travel her journey to some extent.
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