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Books in Brief: Nice Try, Jane Sinner by Lianne Oelke; The United States v. Jackie Robinson by Sudipta Bardham-Quallen

Nice Try, Jane Sinner by Lianne Oelke; Clarion Books, 432 pages ($17.99) Ages 14 and up.
This hilarious and unexpectedly poignant debut novel comes from a writer who works in the film industry, its whimsical narrative in the voice of 17-year-old Jane Sinner, interspersing journal entries and conversations (including many with an imaginary therapist) and unfolding rather like a screenplay. After an existential crisis, followed by expulsion from high school,  Jane enrolls at Elbow River Community College to finish high school. On a whim, she lies about her age and signs up for "House of Orange," an online reality show as a way to get cheap rent, avoid living with her devout Christian parents, and, possibly, win a car and college scholarship, even if it means being on camera and having no privacy several hours a day.  Hilarity ensues, as Jane comes up with a unique way to punish the housemate who is stealing her food from the refrigerator, forms an alliance with the other basement-dwellers to vote the competition off the show, and slowly develops a romance (or is it just a "showmance"?) with another cast member. The challenges increase in difficulty, although Jane proves herself a worthy combatant, whether it's strategizing at dodgeball, her superior skill at LaserTag or her willingness to tolerate the stench and discomfort of living with other competitors in a van for several days. Jane is confident she has what it takes to win, but what if winning means betraying someone she has grown to trust? Or dealing with the betrayal of someone else? Jane's snarky observations keep the narrative rolling along: "This is why I can't talk to the parents. They think you can get friends in high school the same way you get chips from a vending machine. Put in a little niceness, and some kid pops our ready to double-check your homework and paint your nails at a slumber party. Niceness is not a valid currency in high school." What seems in the beginning to be just a dog-eat-dog, anything-goes reality show turns into something else entirely by the end in this revelatory coming-of-age story of self-discovery and forgiveness.  The author lives in Vancouver and her hugely entertaining, original novel is set in Calgary.
The United States v. Jackie Robinson by Sudipta Bardham-Quallen, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie; Balzer + Bray/Harper Collins; $17.99.
A decade before Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus, Jackie Robinson refused a white bus driver's command to move to the back of a military bus and found himself on trial, facing court-martial. He went on to break the color bar in Major League Baseball, but this fascinating picture book looks at the injustice he faced starting in childhood, growing up in Pasadena, Calif., the taunts he faced as a high school and college athlete, the discrimination he faced in the segregated armed services of World War II and the court case he won.  The  gorgeous illustrations are by the Caldecott Honor-winning illustrator of "Freedom in Congo Square."
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