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Jumpstart the World by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Jumpstart the World

by Catherine Ryan Hyde

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Loved this novel about a 16 year old living in her own apartment in New York after her mother dropped her there to be with her boyfriend. In JumpStart the World, Elle makes friends with her next door neighbors who aren't as ordinary as they seem. She struggles with friendships and coming into her own sense of self. It was a great read, and I would definitely recommend it to high schoolers. ( )
  Trock33 | Sep 11, 2014 |
Hands down the best YA book with trans/genderqueer characters I've read, which is not to say perfect by any means but politically and emotionally smart. Okay! ( )
  anderlawlor | Apr 9, 2013 |
A good book to add to LGBT collections. ( )
  Sullywriter | Apr 3, 2013 |
This review first appeared on my website: http://joannaceleste.com/book-reviews/fiction/jumpstart-the-world-by-catherine-r...

"Jumpstart the World" by Catherine Ryan Hyde, Alfred A Knopf (2010) 186 pages, $7.99, ISBN 978037596665. (Also available in paperback and ebook format).


Elle is a girl who doesn’t belong anyplace–not even in her own home, after her mother sends her packing to accommodate her latest boyfriend. Elle finds herself thrust into a new apartment, facing the prospect of a new school, and she’s alone. But she’s used to being alone.

Then she meets Frank and Molly, and a gang of friends at school, who are Different. Or are they? Elle’s friendship and interactions with them deftly changes what it means to be beautiful, what it means to be special, and what it means to be true to the person that resides inside.

Catherine Ryan Hyde’s style reads is as if we have been given someone’s diary and, for just a few hours, we are allowed entrance into their secret world. We sit alongside Elle as she rides through the bumps, bruises and highs of her journey. More than that, Ms. Ryan Hyde captures silence like very few writers can. She takes the moments where everything is still, and she lets them just hold.

Because we read a diary, the exposition does not preach like it might in someone else’s hands. With Ms. Ryan Hyde, the events, feelings and conclusions simply are. The way everything plays out is the only way it ever could; the way we would expect it to if this indeed was a journal capturing a snapshot of someone else’s life.

"Jumpstart the World" is the story you read in a Saturday afternoon, so you can spend all day Sunday mulling over the imagery and the moments that rang true. Then the people and their lives creep into your heart and get absorbed into your lifeblood and stay with you in ways you can’t begin to imagine a few thousand words possibly can.

Catherine Ryan Hyde delivers yet another deeply honest and raw rendition of what it means to be alive in our current times; it is haunting and exquisite to see how the lives of the characters intertwine, and how they find their own kind of happy ending. Not the fairy tale kind, but the kinds that are around us, waiting to be realized, in the world we can reach out and make our own. ( )
  Joanna_Celeste | Dec 10, 2012 |
This review first appeared on my blog: http://www.knittingandsundries.com/2011/05/jumpstart-world-by-catherine-ryan-hyd...

At 15, Elle isn't old enough to be on her own, but her mother's boyfriend doesn't want her around. Rather than being a good mom and telling the boyfriend to take a hike, Elle's mom rents an apartment across town for her to live in. In defiance, Elle chops off her hair and heads to her new high school looking a bit worse for the wear. She also chooses the ugliest cat she could find at the pound to irritate her beauty-obsessed mother. Toto is scraggly and only has one eye, but Elle grows to love him.

Her neighbor Frank helps her with her unpacking, and Elle develops a bit of a crush on him. Then she finds out he has a partner, Molly, but the crush endures. When Molly goes to her locker at school, someone has scrawled the word "QUEER" across it (probably due to her chopped off hair), and that lets her know that she will probably not be making many new friends. She does, however, end up getting to know a group of LGBT kids, and, while she's not certain exactly how she feels about them, they take her in with open arms. At a get-together at Elle's apartment, her new friends tell her that they think Frank is transgender, and Elle is flabbergasted at even the thought, especially since she's crushing so much on him. If he's transgender, what does that say about HER, especially since all of her new friends have varying sexual identities?

This novel is brilliant; I love Ms. Hyde's writing style. She totally gets into the mind of a teenager who is going through a heck of a lot. Knowing that your mother prefers being with her boyfriend over taking care of you would throw anyone into a tailspin, and finding yourself seriously crushing on someone who is or was a woman at the same time?

This book is not about sexual identity, although that theme runs through the book. It's about friendship, and acceptance, and knowing that being different isn't a bad thing. There is a lot of punch packed into this short novel, and I would highly recommend it to any reader, not just YA readers. I really loved it, and I'm passing it on to my Not-So-Bebe-Girl Autumn, who I think will love it too.


I took it kind of hard. Hearing that he wasn't around much. But then again, I don't have tons and tons of friends. And only one ever offered to look after me. Even my mother isn't entirely committed to that.

I didn't want to look at him. Because I didn't want to do that thing. That obvious thing. Where you look at him in a whole new light. Use the new information to look at him and see something entirely different. I didn't care to try on any new views of Frank.

It struck me suddenly how utterly ridiculous it is to ever think you know anybody. Or to ever think you've found anybody you can love.
Because you don't know anybody.
Especially when you haven't even known them all that long. But, really, not even when you've known them all your life. I never thought my mother would trade me for some dork named Donald. And I sure as hell never thought Frank was anything other than a guy.

Writing: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Plot: 4 out of 5 stars
Characters: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Reading Immersion: 5 out 5 stars

BOOK RATING: 4.5 out of 5 stars ( )
  jewelknits | May 2, 2011 |
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Sixteen-year-old Elle falls in love with Frank, the neighbor who helps her adjust to being on her own in a big city, but learning that he is transgendered turns her world upside-down.

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