Jason and Marceline by Jerry Spinelli

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Themes and Characters

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The main themes of Jason and Marceline involve entering adolescence. Jason finds himself extremely interested in the physical changes his female classmates are undergoing. He also is interested in and puzzled by the physical changes and emotional changes he is undergoing, especially his awakening sexual feelings. Another theme involves judging people on the basis of appearance alone. Jewel Fiorito, for example, develops physically so much during the summer that the boys do not recognize her when she returns to the ninth grade. They decide that since she is so well developed, she must be sexually active. When on Halloween Jewel wears a belly dancer's costume and the boys discover that she really can belly dance, they are even surer that she is sexually active. Jason is surprised to discover her dating one of his best friends, Peter Kim, a Korean American. When Peter fights Mike Vesto, an older boy in the ninth grade, Marceline tells Jason that Peter is upset because Vesto was telling lies about his sexual experiences with Jewel. Marceline further tells Jason that she did not need Peter to tell her how nice Jewel is.

Through most of the book, Jason feels that he is engaged in a kind of sexual race with Richie Bell, another of his best friends. When Richie and Cricket Dupree begin necking in the movies, Jason feels that he and Marceline better start doing the same. No matter what happens between him and Marceline, he feels pressured to do more. He compares "this sex stuff" to football in which one team has to keep scoring or the other team will catch up. He also feels that what one does with a girl is only the first part; "the other part is what you say to the guys afterward. In fact, I was starting to think it was the most important part." Toward the end of the novel, Jason seems to be learning that sex is not like a football game.

Important to the book is Jason's interaction with a seventh grade boy who on the first day of school starts talking to Jason. The boy wears a belt with beads on it that form a pattern that looks like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, so the ninth grade boys call him Rudy. After Marceline stops seeing Jason, Jason starts picking on Rudy, who thought Jason was his friend. Several other ninth grade boys also begin picking on Rudy. For some reason Jason does not understand, possibly because Rudy enjoys the attention, Rudy laughs when the boys pick on him and seems to enjoy it. He never shows any fear—no matter how vicious or physical the teasing gets. One day in the cafeteria, however, one of the ninth graders, Finney, begins stealing Rudy's chicken nuggets. Apparently thinking Finney will eat them all, Rudy...

(The entire section is 704 words.)