Book Review: Jumpstart the World

Jumpstart the WorldJumpstart the World by Catherine Ryan Hyde

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.

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5 Replies to “Book Review: Jumpstart the World”

  1. What an awesome coincidence we posted our reviews of this book on the same day! And what better proof that the same book can provoke very different responses in people. It is a very tight story, and on the technical side is very well written…I just couldn’t get into the characters thanks to the sparse details.

  2. This sounds like an interesting, reality based book. Transgender people, 16 year old girls living on their own are all things my daughter ran into in high school in NYC. Now she is 22 and not thinking being on her own is as great as she thought it would be when she was 16. This sounds like a good book for kids who think being on there own is nothing but fun.

  3. This sounds fascinating. I had several friends in high school who were in this same situation – living on their own, or with an aunt or friend, because their Mom couldn’t wait another year or two to get her romance life back together. What a compelling scenario!

  4. Thank you so much for this wonderful review, and particularly for posting it on Amazon as well. Of course I’m glad you liked the book so much, but giving so many others a chance to read your review is really wonderful. Adding you to my blogroll.

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