Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Needle DOES NOT Recommend Jumpstart the World by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Jumpstart the World by Catherine Ryan Hyde

“Since we all know for a fact that we're all going to die, why don't we all treat each other like we could lose each other at any minute?” (124-125)

There aren’t that many good books about or with transgender characters, and unfortunately Jumpstart the World is yet another that falls short, in my opinion. I remember distinctly reading Luna by Julie Anne Peters and remember liking it at the time because it was one of the first times I was exposed to the idea of being transgender. Looking back on it, I realized that it was a less than ideal portrayal of transgender characters, and Jumpstart the World shares many of the criticisms I now have towards Luna. They both are from the point of view of a teenage cisgender girl (a girl who identifies with the gender she was assigned at birth), and the story is about her interactions with a transgender person.

In Jumpstart the World, 15-year-old Elle has to move into her own apartment because her dysfunctional mother’s boyfriend doesn’t want her around. She ends up developing feelings for an older, transgender man who lives with his girlfriend next door, apparently because he listens to her while nobody else does. There’s also a supporting cast of Elle’s new friends, a small group of two-dimensional characters that are mostly there just to propel forward Elle’s journey through discovery, confusion, then acceptance of the fact that Frank is transgender. Elle herself comes off as a whiny, childish, privileged teen, and she was generally an unlikeable character. It’s pretty clear that the book was written by a cisgender person who likely doesn’t have any close relationships with transgender people. 

I wish I could recommend a good book about transgender characters for you to read instead of Jumpstart the World, but there already are so few books that even mention the subject, much less, books that are any good. Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger is not bad, but it’s very informational and perhaps more suited for younger teens because of the plot and writing style. If you do find yourself reading a book that less-than-meets your standards, remember to feel free to stop reading! There are lots of great books out there that are more worth your time. 

Hyde, Catherine R. Jumpstart the World. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010.

Review written by Needle, Teen Volunteer

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