My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Thirteen-year-old Jenn North is dreading Grade nine because it’s such an in-between and boring year. But even before school begins things start to liven up—though not in entirely good ways.
Her dad’s law practice takes him to Toronto, he and mom aren’t getting along and they’re thinking about splitting up, but at the last minute Mom decides to move east to give their relationship one more try. So Jenn will end up being a boarder at Primrose Heights School for Girls.
Once school starts there are more surprises. Mrs. Robinson, who has been at Prim Heights forever and whose Anne Frank assignment Jenn has all but completed over summer, isn’t going to be teaching Humanities this year after all. Dr. Collins is there instead and her assignment to research a relative’s life during the 1940s and make a joint presentation catches Jenn by nasty surprise. She feels a little better when she gets to work with her new best friend Jo, but then Jas, who she doesn’t like at all, gets assigned to their group too.
Beverley Boissery’s The Three J’s is YA fiction set in Vancouver amongst the upper income set, with a private girls school, tennis clubs, limos, exotic vacations, and a summer cottage at Qualicum Beach.
The book tells the story of part of the girls’ grade nine year. There are ups and downs as they get to know each other while dealing with the challenges of school life. For Jenn those include getting used to boarding, living without her family nearby, and becoming her friend Jo’s sidekick when the tennis movers and shakers try to get Jo to commit to their team.
It’s on a trip to the east over Thanksgiving that Jenn and Jo get to visit the National Archives to do research for their projects. What Jenn discovers about her great-great-grandfather has her wishing she could abandon the whole project.
That weekend she and Jo also do some sleuthing around to help Jas with her project. She needs help because her single mom won’t tell her anything about her estranged family. Their discovery gives the book an interesting secondary story.
Each of the girl’s final presentations about the ancestor they chose is told in fictional style near the end of the book, giving readers three different viewpoints of World War II.
Jenn’s first-person telling is the consistent viewpoint of the book. Her forthright personality comes out in her young teen voice, complete with pet names and abbreviations (she calls her grandmother “Attila-ess,” and Qualicum Beach “QBeach”). She is also typical in her interests—her appearance, friends, boys, and what’s happening to her family.
My favorite part was the telling of the girls’ three stories (fictionalized from real people and events). I especially appreciated what Jenn learned as she thought about her politician great-great-grandfather and how the views he held and the things he did in the 1940s would be looked at today. In her own words to the class:
“’I’ve really thought a lot about great-great-grandfather. He thought he was doing the best thing …. and it has made me wonder what we, our generation, are doing that our great-great-grandchildren will be ashamed of’” p. 192.
All in all The 3 Js is a great read for kids in about Grades six to nine, both for entertainment and a palatable serving of history.
The 3 Js was a finalist in The 2013 Word Awards, Young Adult category.