Jess, Chunk and the Road Trip to Infinity
Kristin Elizabeth Clark
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux Books for Young Readers
Published November 8, 2016
About Jess, Chunk, and the Road Trip to Infinity
The last time Jess saw her father, she was a boy named Jeremy. Now she’s a high school graduate, soon to be on her way to art school. But first, Jess has some unfinished business with her dad. So she’s driving halfway across the country to his wedding. He happens to be marrying her mom’s ex-best friend. It’s not like Jess wasn’t invited; she was. She just told them she wasn’t coming. Surprise!
Luckily, Jess isn’t making this trip alone. Her best friend, Christophe—nicknamed Chunk—is joining her. Chunk has always been there for Jess, and he’s been especially supportive of her transition, which has recently been jump-started with hormone therapy.
Along the way from California to Chicago, Jess and Chunk will visit roadside attractions, make a new friend or two, and learn a few things about themselves—and each other—that call their true feelings about their relationship into question.
My favorite part of the story was the relationship between Jess and Chunk. They had a lot of shared rituals and games—from the use of the term Black Hole to indicate a topic that must immediately be dropped, to a back-and-forth exchange of synonyms as a game.
I loved the way the author juxtaposed Jess’s insecurities about her body during her transition and Chunk’s insecurities about his weight. I felt like Jess’s experience was really easy to understand and empathize with, but she’s also a flawed character. Her self-focused thoughts and obsession over her feelings about her transition leave her blindsided to the feelings of others. At first, this causes a lot of friction, but Jess does begin to recognize how cruel or thoughtless she’s been to others. There’s a lot of hope to be found here, and a lot of heart, too.
While Jess’s mom is extremely supportive of her transition, her dad withdraws and struggles much more overtly with Jess’s news. Showing Jess’s dad’s reaction and also her feelings about his words added a much greater understanding and level of empathy to the story, because we saw not only her dad’s genuine struggle to understand why this was happening and the way his struggle made Jess feel rejected and unloved.
Overall, Jess, Chunk, and the Road Trip to Infinity is an emotional journey wrapped in a road trip and packed with all the stuff best friendships are made of and even a little romance. Fans of John Green and Emil Ostrovski will enjoy the quirky, deep friendships.
Jess is a transgender girl who has recently started hormone therapy as part of her transition. Another character comes out as pansexual, meaning he is attracted to others of any gender.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used with moderate frequency.
One kiss between Jess and a boy. Jess also talks about her journey realizing she’s transgender as opposed to previously believing she was gay. At one point she briefly mentions one key moment was in paying attention to what she fantasized about—touching rather than being touched. It’s brief and only about as explicit as I just was.
Jess worries about her safety as she and Chunk travel through from California to Chicago, through some areas known to be unfriendly toward transgender people. At one point she hears a story about someone who was attacked.
At one point Jess drinks beer with friends she makes on the road trip.