Wish You Were Here

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 11th grade October 2001

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When it comes down to it, anyone can probably say they've had a rough life. I know for a fact that life, like a rollercoaster, has its ups and downs. Being a senior in high school definitely has challenges that have to be faced for the first time. Jackson Watt (a.k.a. "Jax"), the main character in the novel Wish You Were Here, by Barbara Shoup, displays all the dynamic sides of a teenager's life. Staged in Indianapolis, Indiana, Jax is a high school senior and the novel covers his whole life over his last year of school. Throughout the novel Jax faces many different obstacles and trials such as, losing a friend, getting into a college, relationships with divorced parents, suicide of a girlfriend, meeting the girl he loves, and a lot in between.

When Jackson Watt's best friend, Brady, runs away from home and doesn't let anyone know, Jackson has to change the way he lives in a way.

First off, his initial attitude is negative and directed towards Brady who's not even around to see Jackson's reaction. Over the course of time, Jax will recuperate and even mature because of all that happens throughout his senior year. While coping with the loss of a friend, Jax goes out and makes more friends and even starts more beneficial relationships with people that he probably never would have met if it weren't for Brady's leaving. Suddenly, Jax has become a stronger person mentally and physically and his self-esteem seems to shoot through the roof when he really starts to enjoy his life. Though he's having a blast in his last year of high school, Jax just can't seem to get over Brady. Almost everything Jax does just happens to bring back some kind of memory or thought of Brady that he just can't get out of his head. Jax goes to school and his whole approach on the subject of Brady seems so aggressive with the way he expresses his hate for what Brady did. Many people notice that his friendship with Brady must have really meant something special to him.

During spring break Jax, his mom, and new husband (Ted), go to Florida to spend time at the beach. To Jax's surprise, he meets a girl named Amanda, who he really falls for. Over the week that he's there on the beach with her, Jax shares some true feelings from inside his head and we get to see a side of Jax, which is never displayed before. Once again in his conversation, he mentions his best friend Brady and even uses his imagination to try and see what Brady would do in a situation like this. When Amanda expresses interest in what Jax is saying, he says, ""¦actually, I'm still mad at him"¦I'm pissed out of my mind." Jax then thinks to himself: "suddenly I'm telling her everything. How close the two of us were. How strange the school year has been without him, how it freaks me out to think that there are things, really important things, in my life that Brady doesn't even know about." This only proves that Jax has moved on, but he still has Brady somewhere stored up in the corner of his mind that always seems to stick out like a sore thumb. Amanda then displays a liking of Jax by saying ""¦but you don't change. Not inside. You know who you are. You know what you want." This not only makes Jax feel better but it also adds to his already apparent fondness of her. Later when Amanda joins Jax's family for some dinner, Jax has thoughts flying through his head faster than the speed of light: ""¦So what's my next line? Don't worry, I'm not? Or worse, the truth: Actually, I am in love with you, Amanda. But don't worry, I don't expect you to love me back. Ha. I'm not stupid enough to make a fool of myself again. I keep quiet." With all that going on around the dinner table, Jax is once again his distracted and preoccupied self, who can't seem to keep his head on straight. It's amazing to see how Jax has gone through an incredible transformation over time and he is just stuck at this time, trying too hard to make this girl like him, who by the way, already likes him. On the last day that Jax is on the beach with Amanda, his voice shines through at the last minute as he tries to express his true desire for Amanda. "I like you," I repeat when I catch up. "I love you. Jeez, I'm in love with you. I just never thought you""" Then he kisses Amanda. At the last moment they're together, Jax finally comes through and puts all thoughts and fears aside just to be with the one he truly loves. It's his true voice and his true desire and his being himself that really pushes his will and desire.

When Jax is back in his hometown, he doesn't forget about Amanda, but he can't seem to express himself freely in a letter or anything so he really loses all the desire that was in the relationship over that one week period. This occurrence seems to be very similar to the one of Brady leaving Indianapolis and all his friends behind. Just like Brady, Jax never really contacts Amanda, a true friend and a person he really had feelings for. I noticed that throughout the story, Jax did express his voice freely to himself since we as readers could hear his narrative voice and know all he was thinking and feeling. It's important to understand that the portrayal of Jax was written to illustrate the life of a teenager in the best and the worst of times. I consider this book to be a great representation of the facts of life and the true depth of thought a teenager can have at times. I strongly recommend this book to any teenager trying to jump over the hurdles in life. Unlike other books, I found this book to be interesting and realistic; I feel the word choice from the author is excellent and the explicit content really expresses each characters true voice. The voice of every character in this book was apparent and even graphic at times. Voice does in fact play an important role in how we view the characters.