Sunday, March 31, 2013

Novel Review: Jumpstart the World by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Genre: YA Contemporary
Rating (Out of 5): ~3.5-4
Publisher: Random House (Knopf)
Spoilers?: Very minor.
Buy it here: Amazon.

Goodreads Synopsis:

Elle is a loner. She doesn’t need people. Which is a good thing, because she’s on her own: she had to move into her own apartment so her mother’s boyfriend won’t have to deal with her.

Then she meets Frank, the guy who lives next door. He’s older and has a girlfriend, but Elle can’t stop thinking about him. Frank isn’t like anyone Elle has ever met. He listens to her. He’s gentle. And Elle is falling for him, hard.
But Frank is different in a way that Elle was never prepared for: he’s transgender. And when Elle learns the truth, her world is turned upside down.  Now she’ll have to search inside herself to find not only the true meaning of friendship but her own role in jumpstarting the world.

Tender, honest, and compassionate, Jumpstart the World is a stunning story to make you laugh, cry, and honor the power of love.


I figured this would be a quick, somewhat light, maybe thoughtful, read. And, for the most part, I was right. And I did enjoy it about as much as I thought I would. Which is to mean, that I liked this book. However, it hasn’t left me with a lot to say, or at least not with much of knowing what to say.
Elle, the main character, is forced to move into an apartment by herself, paid for by her mother, despite the fact that she’s still in high school. The reason being that her mother and her new husband want to be with only each other, mostly the idea pushed on by the new step-father. Her mother feels bad about it, but doesn’t do anything to stop it.
Now, there’s the fact that most teenagers would like to be on their own, and at times it would be nice to be by yourself, especially if your mother was paying for everything. But then there’s the fact that Elle’s mother pretty much chose her husband over her daughter, and even went so far as to kick her daughter out of the house, even if she’s paying for her new living arrangements. That’s just ridiculous, and bad parenting.
But, in Elle’s new apartment building, she meets her very nice neighbors. Next door lives Frank, a very nice little-bit-older guy who Elle forms a crush on. And then there’s Franks girlfriend, Molly, who is nice enough. And then there’s the fact that Frank (I’m ruining what could be a surprise, if the synopsis didn’t give it away, so I’m not going to feel bad about it, even if the book would have been better were it kept a secret) is a transgender.
Elle also gets new friends at her high school, all of whom are outcasts, but whom she forms a nice friendship with. These new friends are who bring up the idea of Frank being a transgender to her. She’s not expecting this, feels very insecure about the fact that it might mean she’s gay, and causes a rift between her and everyone else. It’s understandable, her insecurities mostly plausible, even though I think she should have gotten out of her funk much sooner than she did.
The topic of being gay and transgender and whatever else was handled rather well, I think. Elle had a hard time grasping it at first, and we were given the idea of how other people are not supportive, but I don’t think we were given enough of an idea of how bad it could turn out if someone were to get bullied or something because of it. But even saying that, I still thought that the topic was handled well.
Also, I don't really like the title. Or how it's used in the book. I feel like something better could have been thought of.
I liked Frank, was okay with Molly. The ending was not what I expected, but it wasn’t bad—it worked. I really liked Elle’s friends from school, particularly Wilbur. I would have liked to have gotten to know Wilbur better, actually, to have seen more of him. They were all just really good for each other; they’re people who don’t have a lot of people in their lives, and somehow ended up forming a friendship because of that, because it was needed and it works for them. I liked their talks, their general friendship, and I liked the different characters. Elle also adopts a very wary cat, who was also needed in the story, and who I just liked.
This is a rather short book, but the writing is nice, thoughtful, the characters all have different personalities and they’re fun, I liked the protagonist. This was overall a pretty good book.

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