Jonathan Stiles is a 14-year-old atheist who is coping with his first day of ninth grade at the fervently religious St. Soren's Academy when his idolized older brother Ryan is found dead at the bottom of a ravine behind the school. As his world crumbles, Jonathan meets an eccentric stranger who bears an uncanny resemblance to Jesus Christ (except for his white linen leisure suit and sparkling gold chains). Jesus Jackson, as he calls himself, offers to provide faith to Jonathan. He also suggests that Ryan's death may not have been an accident after all.
Jonathan teams up with Henry, his new best friend at St. Soren's, to investigate. The two boys find footprints leading to the ravine that match Ryan's sneakers. They are assisted by Ryan's grieving girlfriend, Tristan, who also thinks the accident theory is bunk. The police, however, will not listen. But Jonathan knows something the police do not know: Shortly before his death, Ryan was doing cocaine with fellow footballer and number one suspect Alistair not far from the ravine where his body was found.
An inspired Jonathan battles sanctimonious school psychologists, overzealous administrators, and a cavalry of Christian classmates on his quest to discover the truth about Ryan's death --and about God, high school, and the meaning of life, while he's at it. But he keeps getting distracted by Cassie --Alistair's quirky younger sister --who holds the keys to the answers Jonathan is searching for, but but who also makes him wonder if he should be searching for them at all.
Read an interview with the author HERE.
Praise for the book:
"When high school football hero Ryan Stiles is found dead at the bottom of a ravine, the only person not consumed by grief is his younger brother. Jonathan has reason to believe his brother’s death was no accident. While everyone around him goes through the many stages of grief, Jonathan can only investigate. The book works as parallel mysteries: On one track are the shady details of Ryan’s death, and on the other are the religious and spiritual questions brought up by his demise. Jonathan’s friend Henry and Ryan’s girlfriend, Tristan, help him solve the murder, while the mysterious 'Jesus Jackson' helps Jonathan with his theological needs. Daley’s use of Jesus as a sounding board for Jonathan’s crisis of faith makes for the book’s most surreal and intimate moments. The author argues the necessity of faith regardless of where it is placed, a simple concept that is refreshed when delivered in such an unusual fashion. The book excels, sidestepping holier-than-thou rhetoric and addressing the pain of loss head-on as well as painting a wonderful depiction of a young man coming to terms with how he was raised and how he wants to lead his own life. The mystery element and minor romance are icing on the cake: well executed and finely tuned, complementing the book’s major themes in all the right ways. Smart and sweet, comforting and moving." ~Kirkus Reviews