Find it at a local indie!
- Why I read it: Cover love, LGBTQ, author's Twitter presence, buzz
- Disclosure: Won a copy from John at Dreaming in Books. Thanks!
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.If any of my readers bore witness to my Friday night Twitter frenzy, you'll know I was in the midst of frantic revisions to a short story for a contest, and that I didn't take it very well. I still think that story is a piece of crap and can't believe that I actually submitted it, like getting-nasty-adrenaline-tingles-every-time-I-think-about-someone-reading-it kind of can't believe I actually submitted it. It's the first short story I've let anybody read in three years, because writing is terrifying. It's putting a piece of yourself in someone else's hands, and you never know how they'll deal with it. It's why, no matter how scathing I can get on this blog, anyone who's gone through the ordeal of getting a book in my hands has my respect; those who tackle topics as big and terrifying as Catherine Ryan Hyde does here, my hero worship for all eternity. From the second I read this blurb, I knew I was reading this book. And was I ever not disappointed.
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.
Everything that makes this book work rests on a fundamental principle that the author seems to understand perfectly: any teen that says they haven't questioned their authority, their friends, their sexuality, their place in the world, and most importantly, themselves, is lying. Being a teen is being in flux, and Jumpstart the World captures this with the kind of authenticity that makes me cry big sloppy tears. (Multiple times.)
It's a scenario I imagine most teens would struggle to see themselves in beyond the occasional daydream: our narrator, Elle, lives by herself in an apartment in New York City because her mom's got a douchebag boyfriend who doesn't want to deal with her. She happens to have nice neighbors, and also happens to find herself accepted by the "Us" crowd at high school (a crowd united almost entirely by sexual preference, except, of course, for Elle). Yet somehow it never seems anything other than normal, because the author does such a good job of making Elle us. Not Bella-Swan-Mary-Sue sort of us, but all the real uncertainty and hurt that comes with growing up. One of my favorite passages is early in the book, when someone spray paints a slur on Elle's locker after she cuts her hair:
I'm not gay. Why would somebody paint that on my locker? I'm not gay. Must have been a case of mistaken identity.
Or the haircut.
I thought it made me look like Annie Lennox. I didn't think it made me look gay.Which I suppose is a nice transition into my thoughts on one of the reasons this book has gotten attention on Twitter and in the book blogosphere: its frank treatment of the LGBTQ community. In a word: brilliant. In another word: brave. Basically, it never veers into "shock" territory, and simply explores gender identity in all its forms - something YA could really use more of. I know I've said in the past on this blog that I'm straight, definitely straight. This probably veers into too-personal territory, but in the past few months I've started realizing I'm closer to bi, or at the very least questioning - and also that that's okay. I wish there were more books like this one that help me remember that that's okay, and not ones that make me feel put in a gender/relationship box. It's sympathetic without being pandering or hitting you over the head with a message. It's respectful. It's realistic. Honestly, this idea, which in a sidebar has restored my belief in the Magical Author Idea Tree, and especially the author's treatment of the idea, is what elevates this book from good to great.
It's so rare that my only real complaint about a book is that it doesn't go on long enough, but that's the case here. It's easily one of the best YA books I've read this year, if not period, and the kind I want to coerce everyone I know into reading. So if you're reading this review, I'm coercing you, and no guarantees it won't be forcibly. (Just kidding. Or am I?) Five out of five stars.
Now Listening: "Back in Black" by AC/DC.