Nice Try, Jane Sinner

Nice Try, Jane Sinner

by Lianne Oelke


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"Jane Sinner snarked her way into my heart, and she's never leaving. Prepare to fall hard for this hilarious, heartfelt gem of a book."—Becky Albertalli, author of Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda

It’s Kind of a Funny Story meets Daria in the darkly hilarious tale of a teen’s attempt to remake her public image and restore inner peace through reality TV. The only thing 17-year-old Jane Sinner hates more than failure is pity. After a personal crisis and her subsequent expulsion from high school, she’s going nowhere fast. Jane’s well-meaning parents push her to attend a high school completion program at the nearby Elbow River Community College, and she agrees, on one condition: she gets to move out.
Jane tackles her housing problem by signing up for House of Orange, a student-run reality show that is basically Big Brother, but for Elbow River Students. Living away from home, the chance to win a car (used, but whatever), and a campus full of people who don't know what she did in high school… what more could she want? Okay, maybe a family that understands why she’d rather turn to Freud than Jesus to make sense of her life, but she'll settle for fifteen minutes in the proverbial spotlight.
As House of Orange grows from a low-budget web series to a local TV show with fans and shoddy T-shirts, Jane finally has the chance to let her cynical, competitive nature thrive. She'll use her growing fan base, and whatever Intro to Psychology can teach her, to prove to the world—or at least viewers of substandard TV—that she has what it takes to win.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780358097563
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 10/08/2019
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 1,137,050
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

Lianne Oelke has a degree in philosophy and works in the film industry—which may explain a lot about her debut novel, Nice Try, Jane Sinner. Or not. She lives, camps, and thinks about cats in Vancouver and tweets at @lianneoelke. 

Read an Excerpt


I’m not a particularly good daughter, but I sat through a month of therapy for my parents’ sake. I’d like to think they got more out of it than I did. Couldn’t have been too hard. Any system that requires the patient’s family to pay someone else to care about her is fundamentally flawed. But I digress. If my decision to stop attending therapy means James Fowler High School no longer welcomes me as a student, I guess that’s on me.
     The novelty of playing hooky has worn off, and I’m desperate to fill my time with something other than introspection, the occasional afternoon stocking groceries, and Mario Kart.

Bonnie just texted me. She wants me to burst through the clouds like the beautiful ray of sunshine that I am and come to a party tonight where everyone is apparently super super stoked to see me again. I told her it’s too dangerous. I have been known to blind others with my relentlessly sunny disposition. I may be desperate for a change, but I’m not desperate enough to face a party full of ex-classmates. Bonnie is a better person than I will ever be, so she promised to stop by later for whatever garbage I’ll be binge watching on my laptop.
     So that’s nice. It’s also nice to write in here. I haven’t written in this journal for months. It’s kind of funny that the only time I don’t write in here is when a therapist says I should. But I needed a break from myself. Understandably, I think.

Ditching school five months before grad isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It’s too late to catch up now. I dropped the ship, that ball has sailed, Jane Sinner has left the building. Everyone is still a little scared to ask what I’m going to do now because they know I have no fucking clue. The parents certainly didn’t see this coming. They’re still scrambling to find “the window God must have opened, since he closed this particular door.” I’m old enough to close doors on my own, thank you very much. But the parents don’t want to hear that. They want to hear me say, “Why yes, I’d love to come with you to church this morning.” Not “I can’t, I have to catch up on a variety of reality television shows.”
     They thought if Bonnie came over for lunch after the service, it would encourage me to at least shower and put on a bra by the time they got home. It didn’t.
     Apparently, Bonnie’s fashion choices are rubbing off on Carol. They both decided to wear skinny jeans and fluorescent baggy sweaters to church, which annoyed the parents. Carol kept getting her sleeve caught in her lasagna while we ate.

I wish you would have come with us this morning, Jane.

You used to love going to church.

     I also used to love running around half-naked with crayons up my nose because I thought they looked like fangs. I take comfort in knowing people can change.

You know, the best way to move on is to get back in the swing of things. There’s nothing wrong with taking some more classes. You could use more structure in your life. Some order.

     It’s like he didn’t even notice that I had divided my salad into a rainbow of vegetables.

You’re meowing up the wrong tree.

Barking, Jane. It’s barking up the wrong tree.

Cats chase small animals up trees too, you know.

Yeah, well. You don’t want to end up like your Aunt Gina, Jane. You can’t make a decent living for your kids by sitting at home all day, “being funny” and writing Lord knows what for the internet.

I don’t have kids, Dad.

Oh, please. Can’t we all just get along for one meal? Bonnie, how have you been lately? Is school going well for you?

     I guess that’s why they invited her over. Not only is she a conversational buffer, she’s also a reminder that even bisexual girls with tattoos can have their shit together, so why don’t I?

Yeah, school is going okay, I guess. We all miss Jane.

Janie’s gonna go to community college instead. That’s what the guidance counselor thinks she should do, anyway.

Oh really? She didn’t mention that to me.

That’s because I’m not going.

          [rolling her eyes]
Well, you can’t just not go back to school!

Thanks, Obvious McObviouspants.

Well. You can at least go to the information session tomorrow. It’ll be good for you to explore your options.

We talked to Pastor Ron this morning, and he thinks that finishing your diploma at Elbow River is a good idea.

     The parents are Pastor Ron’s biggest fans, so if he thinks an idea is good, my parents think it’s great. I think he’s all right (for a pastor), but I’m not convinced he’s the most qualified authority figure in my life, considering that my apathy toward his church was the domino that broke the camel’s back. I’d tell the parents that, but they get frustrated when I use idioms incorrectly.

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Nice Try, Jane Sinner 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
TheLiteraryPhoenix More than 1 year ago
Nice Try, Jane Sinner is one of those books with a lot of snark. For me, this means that the personality of the main characters seemed to falter and become flat for a while, but it's still amusing enough that I think that Jane will appeal to a wide range of audiences. Her life feels meaningless after the Incident, so Jane half-heartedly tries to pick up the pieces and get away from everything that makes her feel small and pointless. It's easier said than done, especially when family, friends, and society are trying to "help" you, but it feels like they're just digging your hole a bit deeper. Jane's escape is into the reality TV show, House of Orange. Lianne Oelka is smart here. The House of Orange gets you involved in Jane's life, but also in the show itself. The slimy characters you want voted out pull you along in the story probably more than "will Jane or won't Jane pass sociology". I'm not a reality show person, but it's really easy to let those things suck you in. I liked this book well enough, but honestly didn't love it. I thought it was well-written and I appreciated the conversation about personal beliefs and overcoming prejudice, but I wasn't all that invested in Jane herself. I think that this book is definitely worth a read, though, and I'd read Oelke's next book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I cannot believe that this is Lianne Oelke’s debut novel. The synopsis is so unique! Jane Sinner has had to leave her high school following an ‘Event’, and she begins a program at her local community college to finish her diploma. She joins a reality Youtube show run by a fellow student, and subsequently gets into all kinds of trouble. Jane is one of the funniest characters I’ve had the pleasure to read about. This book is told in the format of Jane’s journal, so we get her unfiltered thoughts about her life. She is sarcastic and witty, and I was laughing out loud from page one. My favorite parts were Jane’s interactions with her imaginary therapist. I noticed a lot of growth of her character through these “therapy sessions”. At the beginning of her story, Jane Sinner is afraid of taking steps to improve her mental health. She resists her parents’ efforts to help her by joining a youth group, attend real therapy, or take antidepressant medications. However, as the story progresses, we get to see Jane come to terms with the Event that threw her life for a loop and changed the course of her high school and college experience. The side characters in this story were equally as interesting as Jane. I particularly liked Jane’s relationship with her younger sister, Carol. I would love to read a story told by Carol, as she seems to have the same snarky sense of humor as Jane. I also loved the other reality contestants. As a lover of reality competition TV shows, I mainly watch for the drama. Nice Try, Jane Sinner does not lack drama in any capacity. I would recommend Nice Try, Jane Sinner to anybody. It is a 2018 debut novel that is full of hilarious dialogue and an extremely entertaining reality show.
TheThoughtSpot More than 1 year ago
Thanks to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the opportunity to read and review Nice try, Jane Sinner by Lianne Oelke! The book opens with journal entries written by Jane, who is trying to move past a mysterious event involving James Fowler. Jane alludes to this event as she continues writing in her journal. She joins a reality show in the making, House of Orange, so she can move away from home and move on with her life. Eventually, we discover that James Fowler is the high school Jane was attending when she thought about ending her life and tried doing just that by jumping off a cliff. She wasn’t successful. She learns a great deal about herself while participating on House of Orange. Jane’s sense of humor is entertaining and the broad range of characters makes Jane stop and look at herself and grow personally. She learns to not care about what people think of her and her actions. This contemporary book shows that doubt and insecurity are both normal for everyone as we become adults and grow into our identity. 4 stars. *I received a complimentary copy of this book for voluntary review consideration.
ahyperboliclife More than 1 year ago
“There is no divine plan, no destiny, no life after death, and no compensation for what you lose. There is only here and now. There is only what you’ve done and what you are going to do. And if you can own up to every moment and take responsibility for your life and shape it into something beautiful and kind and generous - if you can do that, you’ve discovered what it means to be strong.” I wanted to like this more than I actually did. It felt felt really average to me - nothing too standout positively or negatively. We follow Jane Sinner as she starts a high school completion program at the local community college, at her parent’s urging. Her one condition is that she gets to move out. Jane signs up to be a part of a student run reality show to save some cash, and hopefully win some prizes. Things I Liked I really liked the journal style format. It made it super easy to read and the pacing was really quick! There was a few times when it was hard to tell the difference between dialogue and text messages, but it wasn’t that much of a problem. I really loved how Jane’s depression and recovery was represented in the story. Jane really starts to question her beliefs and that changes her entire outlook on life. She starts to feel alone, unsure, and most of all indifferent. She just desperately wants to feel something - pain, anger, resentment, something. I like that we get to see Jane’s own process of recovery and figuring out what was best for her, despite what her parents or school may have wanted, she was prioritizing herself. This was such a tiny part of the story, but I really loved it! Jane’s creative writing assignment was so lovely and perfectly captured the emotional tone of the story at that point! Things I Didn’t Like Jane’s humor was very nihilistic and deprecating. It was dry and blunt and funny. Unfortunately, I didn’t really connect with her beyond enjoying her humor. I just didn’t find her to be all that likeable or engaging. For about the first half of the story I was just pretty bored. It took me a while to connect with the other contestants and to care about the competition. I also found the story to feel really long. Like I said above, the journal style format made it really easy to read, but it felt like there were large chunks of text where nothing happened- no development, no action, no growth. I wouldn’t have minded the lulls, if they served a purpose, but it honestly just dragged a bit for me. Nice Try, Jane Sinner was a good books, but it probably won’t leave an impression on me. It took me a long time to get into the story, and to connect to the characters. But, I did love the journal format and seeing Jane’s personal journey and growth. Nice Try, Jane Sinner is a fun story that cleverly explores depression, recovery, and healing. Trigger warnings for depression and suicide
MakennaFournier More than 1 year ago
4.5/5 I had an interest in this book, but right as I got it in my hands I did a quick flip through and saw that book was all of Jane's journal entries. I for sure thought that I was not going to like the book for that specific reason, because a book written though journal entries just is not for me, but I am so glad I was proven wrong. One of my favorite things about this book was Jane. Her personality really came through with the writing, and honestly, I don't read too many character like her. I think she is a character who will most likely rub some people the wrong way (I know because, while I don't fully relate to her, Jane and I were on the same wavelength when it came to stubbornness, and whenever I relate to a book character like that people don't like that character). While some people might not like her, I loved her, and characters who aren't perfect just mean that there is more room for character growth, so thats something to look forward to. Another thing that I really loved was the humor in this book, it had me actually laughing out loud while reading it, and it really made me realize that I don't read enough books that make me laugh. Now on to the bad. There really was only one big problem for me, and that was that it was very slow at the beginning. It took me what felt like forever to get into the book. It did finally pick up... half way through, which sucks, but for what I got from this book, it was worth pushing through the slow parts.