Review: Jumpstart the World
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.–From Amazon
I’m writing this review of Jumpstart the World the evening before Thanksgiving, and the thought that keeps running through my mind is that I’m thankful for books like this, and thankful for authors like Catherine Ryan Hyde. When I think about the people I know who fall anywhere on the spectrum of LGBTQ who have to go home for the holidays into an unwelcoming and unaccepting environment, I am especially grateful that there are books out there where tolerance and acceptance of people of any kind are encouraged. Once again, Catherine Ryan Hyde wrote a beautiful book with the same sense of activism and compassion that she consistently demonstrates in her writing and, as far as I can tell, in her life.
In Jumpstart the World, Elle is left on her own in an apartment when her mom’s new boyfriend doesn’t want her around anymore. Elle quickly befriends her neighbor, Frank, as well as a group of predominantly LGBTQ friends at school. While Elle is accepting of her friend’s sexualities, things become more complicated when she finds out that Frank is transgender. Elle has feelings for Frank despite the fact that he is older and in a relationship, but his sexuality causes her to question her own. What does it mean that she is in love with someone who is transgender?
Frank’s sexuality is approached with great care, and while Hyde’s treatment of the character is not moralistic or preachy, it is educational for whose with little knowledge or experience with transgender people. I learned a great deal about the surgery and medical procedures involved, as well as the possible complications of staying in the hospital for someone who is transgender. Ultimately, though, I was reminded once again that the story of a person of any sexuality is above all a human story, and that all humans deserve respect.
To add to my respect for Catherine Ryan Hyde, I can tell that she is an author who loves animals as much as I do. Toto, Elle’s cat, is a character as fully developed as any human in her story. Elle picks Toto out as an act of rebellion against her mother. Toto is a snarly and unfriendly cat, not the sort her mother would ever pick out. Toto, much like Elle, simultaneously desires and fears human contact. He hides in closest while Elle hides behind her short haircut and bad attitude, sneaking out to investigate Elle only on his own terms. Ironically, it is Toto in part who helps Elle developed a friendship with Frank, who is a vet tech.
Throughout this beautiful novel, Elle, Frank, Toto, and others work through issues of identity, sexuality, and trust together. It is a short, but powerful, book that you will have trouble putting down. The book is also punctuated with brilliant and hilarious chapter titles. I dare you not to laugh when you come across titles like “The Heartbreak of Too Many Guys Named Bob” and “Mascara, and Other Things That Run.” Just skimming through the chapter headings cracks me up. I loved this book, and I’m glad that I was able to give one copy away and share it with somebody else. I’m going to be passing my own copy around to friends for a long time to come!
Quotable Quotes from Jumpstart the World
- “I decided that not talking is like a litmus test for a real friend. You can just sit there and be. Not always be filling up the air with words.”
- “Sometimes you have to jumpstart the world just to get it to be what even the world admits it should be.”
- “Here’s the first thing I need to tell you about my mother: she uses the words ‘beautiful’ and ‘ugly’ a lot. And I do mean a lot. I think she does it unconsciously. I try to tell her how much she does it, but she says I’m exaggerating. Sometimes I feel like I want to make a secret tape of one of her monologues about the world. I could count the number of times she used those two words. I could prove it to her. Lately I’ve been noticing how people have these ways of accidentally letting you see what’s important to them.”
- “She was wearing shiny black tights and her short red leather jacket. There were multiple things wrong with this picture. The first was a leather jacket on an eighty-degree day. Then there was the issue of the tights. Only nineteen-year-olds should wear black tights with nothing on over them. No, I take that back. Nobody should.”
- “For the first time ever, I knew there was something I really cared enough to do. I actually wanted to be something. Then I wondered how I’d ever managed to live my life and be happy without knowing this important thing I wanted to be. Even though it had been just a matter of minutes. Still, some minutes are longer than others.”
- “We would never treat anybody like shit if we knew they could be about to die. I mean, anyone we care about even a little. If we knew they could die, we would just freaking get over all the petty crap, because losing someone you love is more important than any of that . . . Anybody could be about to die. Every single person we care about is going to die. And we have no idea when. So how can we afford to treat anybody like shit” Well, that’s the easy part. We can’t. But here’s the harder part: 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?”