My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Book Source: Checked out from my library
Lately I’ve been noticing how people have these ways of accidentally letting you see what’s important to them.
Just days before her sixteenth birthday, Elle moves into a new apartment. Alone. Except for a one-eyed cat she’s just rescued from the pound. Her mother would rather pay to put her teenage daughter up in an apartment in New York City than risk losing her boyfriend, Donald. The first neighbor Elle meets is Frank, an older guy who sparks an unexpected attraction in Elle. When she learns that Frank is a transgender man, it throws her into a whirl of confusion.
Jumpstart the World is a story of growing up, becoming independent, and finding one’s role in life. To teens dreaming of the day they get to move out of the family home (like the small group she begins to befriend at her new school), Elle’s situation looks great at first, but it quickly becomes apparent that being alone might not be all it’s cracked up to be. In first-person (but not present-tense!) narration, Hyde maintains a voice for Elle that reflects a slightly-more-mature-than-average, little-bit-prickly, sixteen-year-old girl wrestling with issues of love, friendship, and family. The book opens with Elle remarking on her mother’s frequent use of the words “beautiful” and “ugly” as an indication of what her mother considers important, and I was struck by how often Elle uses “weird” or “weirdly”, underscoring how much she thinks about what is normal and what is not. The focus throughout the book remains tight on Elle and her immediate situation. Details about her previous home life are sparse (whatever happened to her father?), and although the novel is written in past tense, it’s clear that these are very recent events. This realistic contemporary novel has clear appeal to anyone who has had that outside-looking-in feeling, and the conclusion of Elle’s story is both satisfying and hopeful.