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 the Son of God (except for his white linen leisure suit and sparkling gold chains). Jesus Jackson, as he calls himself, offers to find a faith that Jonathan can believe in—with a money-back guarantee. He also encourages Jonathan in his belief that Ryan’s death may not have been an accident. Jonathan teams up with Henry, his new best friend at St. Soren’s, to investigate. The boys find footprints leading to the ravine that match Ryan’s sneakers. They are warned off their investigation by Ryan’s football friend, Alistair, but they find an ally in 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: Shortly before his death, Ryan was doing cocaine with 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 who also makes him wonder if he should be searching for them at all.
James Ryan Daley is a writer, editor, and digital designer. After earning an MFA in fiction at the Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2004, James has spent most of the years since teaching writing to college students, creating websites about video games, and editing anthologies of fiction and political rhetoric. When he’s not glued to his computer, James can usually be found skiing the slopes of Vermont’s famous mountains or sailing the harbors of Rhode Island. He lives in Newport, RI with his wife and two daughters.
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