Living with Jackie Chan

Living with Jackie Chan
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Release Date
September 10, 2013
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After fathering a baby, a teenager moves in with his karate-loving uncle and tries to come to terms with his guilt — and find a way to forgive.

This isn’t how Josh expected to spend senior year. He thought he’d be hanging out with his best friends, Dave and Caleb, driving around, partying, just like always. But here he is, miles from home — new school, new life, living with his Jackie-Chan-obsessed uncle, Larry, and trying to forget. But Josh can’t forget. So many things bring back memories of last year and the night that changed everything. Every day the pain, the shame, and the just not knowing are never far from his thoughts. Why is he such a loser? How could he have done what he did?

He finds some moments of peace when he practices karate with Stella, the girl upstairs and his one real friend. As they move together through the katas, Josh feels connected in a way he has never felt before. He wonders if they could be more than friends, but Stella’s jealous boyfriend will make sure that doesn’t happen. And maybe it doesn’t matter. If Stella knew the truth, would she still think he was a True Karate Man? 

Readers first met Josh in "Jumping Off Swings," which told the story of four high school students and how one pregnancy changed all of their lives. In this companion book, they follow Josh as he tries to come to terms with what happened, and find a way to forgive.

Editor reviews

2 reviews
This Karate Kicked Me Right in the Heart
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After an unfortunate incident during a tae kwon do lesson when I was 8 years old, I vowed nothing could ever persuade me to try martial arts again. I’m completely rethinking that conviction after reading Jo Knowles’s “Living with Jackie Chan.”

“Living with Jackie Chan” is a follow up to Knowles’s “Jumping Off Swings,” in which high school student Ellie is impregnated by her classmate Josh during a one night stand. LWJC follows Josh as he moves away from his old school to live with his Uncle Larry and complete his senior year at a place where he doesn’t have to constantly face the consequences of his actions. Uncle Larry just so happens to be a karate instructor who is obsessed with Jackie Chan, and he tries to help Josh cope with his mistakes through lessons of character taught in the martial art.

I was blown away by Knowles’s ability to create such a solid voice for a character that she is biologically unable to relate to. Knowles could never know from experience what it’s like to get a girl pregnant and abandon the mother. She had me fooled, though, because she crafted Josh’s self-loathing, depression, and uncertainty with such certainty that it was hard to believe this was a work of fiction rather than a memoir.

Knowles also has created the best sensei to ever enter pop culture with Uncle Larry. From outward appearances, Larry seems like a bit of a doofus, but he has a heart of gold. He takes on the task of helping Josh learn from his mistakes full on, teaching the teen different karate precepts at appropriates times during his journey. The love and concern Larry has for Josh radiates from him without ever feeling overly mushy. Knowles is some kind of emotional sensei herself, because even without making things blatantly emotional, she left me tearing up a few times due to the bond that forms between Josh and Larry.

While the kung fu master himself never enters the story, “Living with Jackie Chan” is a book that will leave you wanting to go on your own journey of self-discovery through martial arts…preferably with the help of Uncle Larry.
Good Points
Knowles has an amazing ability to write about an experience she could never have.
Highlights principles of karate that can be practiced in all of our lives.
The best sensei to ever hit pop culture.
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