Jerry Spinelli

Jake and Lily

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Jake and Lily Summary

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Jake and Lily (2012) is a realistic novel for middle grade readers by award-winning author Jerry Spinelli. Twins Jake and Lily Wambold have been inseparable for most of their lives, but that changes when they turn eleven. Jake finds new friends, leaving Lily on her own. As the novel progresses, Lily discovers her own identity, and Jake gains self-awareness when he befriends a bully and starts to become one himself. In Jake and Lily, Spinelli addresses issues of family, friendship, and individuality. Jake and Lily take turns narrating the story of their lives, alternating chapters and sometimes even sentences as they describe how their childhood bond evolves and they learn to accept each other’s differences.

The twins were born on a passenger train, the California Zephyr, as it traversed the six-mile-long Moffat Tunnel. Jake is the oldest by eleven minutes; Lily observes that he “lives his life in the lines, like he colors.” Jake is calm, sensible, hates getting in trouble, and enjoys collecting rocks. Lily is feisty, chatty, and cheerfully confesses to wrongdoing so that she can spend time in the “Cool-It Room,” which she has secretly turned into a comfy hideaway.

Jake and Lily share a unique psychic connection that first manifests when they are six years old. On the night of their birthday, they each sleepwalk to the local train station. Waking up on the platform, Jake and Lily see each other and realize they had the same dream. Lily believes that’s when they “unwrapped” themselves and really began to understand who they were. Jake and Lily call their unusual power “goombla.” They each know what the other is thinking even though they might be far away. When they are separated at a beach and their parents are frantic, neither Jake nor Lily feels lost or cut off from each other. They call that incident “Neverlost.” In “The Great Snow-Fort War and The Bruise That Moved” episode, Lily is injured by a boy building a snow fort, and Jack discovers a bruise on his arm. He rushes to Lily’s aid and finds that his bruise is gone, but now Lily has one in the same place. Lily denies that there are any differences between her and Jake and wants to keep it that way. Jake, however, thinks they don’t really have that much in common. He tells Lily, “So I guess we can be twins and still be different.” Lily disagrees.

Lily and Jake’s parents are in the construction business and have been renovating a house down the street. The twins are thrilled when their grandfather, Poppy, moves in. Poppy has been traveling the world to “find himself” after the death of his wife. An aging hippie, Poppy believes that everything in the universe is connected, and he readily accepts the twin’s story about their goombla. He suggests they write a book about their experiences.

When the twins turn eleven, their parents tell them it is time to move into separate bedrooms. Lily is outraged, not understanding why they must be separated. Jake makes friends with the Death Rays gang: Bump Stubbins and his two friends Nacho and Burke. Lily despises Bump, who years ago crashed their sixth birthday party. Now, Jake spends all his time with the Death Rays, riding bikes, playing ring-and-run, hanging out in their tree hideout, and going “goobering.” Goobers are losers who don’t even know it, “They just skip happily along through life.” One day, Bump discovers Ernie, a new boy in town whom Bump says is a “supergoober.” Ernie is clumsily building a clubhouse in his yard. The Death Rays, including Jake, mock Ernie, calling him Soop. They graffiti his clubhouse. However, Ernie has an unfailingly positive attitude and throws off their shade, angering Bump.

Meanwhile, Lily is angry, tearful, resentful, and sulky about being “dumped” by Jake. Poppy tells her that she is the problem. He advises Lily to get some friends or develop some hobbies; she needs her own life. Lily makes short-lived attempts at stamp collecting, origami, and making greeting cards. She even invites a make-up obsessed girl over for an unpleasant sleepover, but none of these activities fill the gap left by Jake.

While Bump is on vacation, Ernie’s mother, Heather, invites Jake, Nacho, and Burke inside for snacks. The boys realize that Heather is surprisingly nice. When Bump returns from vacation, he tears down Ernie’s clubhouse. Ernie realizes that Bump is the vandal. Bump shoves Ernie and gets ready to fight him. To protect Ernie, Jake takes the blame for destroying the clubhouse. Hurt by the disappointment in Ernie’s gaze, Jake feels guilty for going along with Bump’s mean-spirited campaign.

Lily is crushed when on their next birthday, she awakens alone at the train station. She feels the goombla she shared with Jake is gone. Then Lily meets Sydney Dodds, a girl about her age who is stuck babysitting her demanding little brother, Devon. Lily and Sydney have a lot in common and hit it off immediately. Together with Lily’s parents, they build a playground in a nearby vacant lot. When Bump vandalizes it, Lily calls him out and forces him to fix the damage.

Jake watches from a distance as Ernie starts to rebuild his clubhouse. Jake is surprised when Ernie comes to visit him. Ernie asks if Jake really destroyed his house, and Jake confesses he did not. Ernie is thrilled. Ernie admits to Jake and Nacho and Burke that he was bullied at his old school. The four boys become friends. Lily and her parents help the boys make an outstanding clubhouse. Lily realizes that she no longer wants to hang out with the boys so much, now that she has a good friend of her own. Although Jake and Lily both have separate interests now, when Jake senses that Lily is being threatened by a dog and rescues her, they realize they still share their goombla.