Sunday, April 17, 2011
JUMPSTART THE WORLD by Catherine Ryan Hyde
As the book opens, a mother is helping her young daughter move into her own apartment, even taking time to make a visit to the animal shelter to select a cat to provide company during the sometimes lonely transition of living on one's own. This not so unusual scene turns very unusual when the reader learns that the new tenant is only fifteen.
Elle is actually happy to move into her own place even if the reason is that her mother's current boyfriend doesn't want to deal with a teenager. Her mother always wanted Elle to fit into a certain mold - wear the "right" clothes and have the "right" friends. That's just not Elle.
Elle's neighbors include a young couple, Frank and Molly. Frank immediately offers to help with whatever Elle needs. His eagerness to help and his calm, gentle manner make him instantly attractive to Elle. She is soon chatting with him and heading to the couple's apartment for homemade chicken noodle soup. Elle doesn't like to admit it out loud, but she has a crush on Frank.
Starting school in a new school on the first day of the year has its challenges, but when Elle impulsively decides to cut her hair the night before that first day, she takes a risk she later regrets. The day has hardly begun when Elle discovers the word "Queer" painted down the entire length of her locker. She is furious and humiliated but pleasantly surprised when a girl named Shane offers her the needed supplies to remove the offending word.
With Shane's help, Elle makes friends with a group of misfits. At least she now has a table to eat at in the cafeteria, and she quickly finds that the group wants to include her in all their activities. They make her feel less lonely, and at a party they convince her to have at her apartment, they meet Frank. The judgment of the group is that Frank is a "trans-man" and probably preparing for transgender surgery. Elle is stunned and reacts by sending her friends home and avoiding them at school.
As much as she likes Frank, Elle just isn't certain how finding out about his secret makes her feel. She questions if perhaps she isn't who she thinks she is and worries about her own possible sexuality. At the same time she fears she will lose the friendship of the only person she has felt close to in a long, long time.
JUMPSTART THE WORLD is Catherine Ryan Hyde's fifth novel for young adults. Elle is not your typical fifteen year old. Hyde portrays Elle's tenuous relationship with her mother as a possible reason for her more mature attitude which allows her to handle herself in her own apartment and relate to the world with a much more tolerant view than most adults. Readers will become attached to the misfit friends surrounding Elle and admire their courage in the face of potentially cruel treatment and prejudice. As always this Hyde novel is well worth reading.