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3 May 2010 JUMP by Elisa Carbone, Viking, June 2010, 288p., ISBN: 978-0-670-01185-8


"No one bites back as hard on their anger

None of my pain and woe can show through"

-- Peter Townsend, "Behind Blue Eyes"




"Which is more insane?  To go through life:


A. Afraid.

B. As an adventurer.


"Qu'en es mas loco?


A. To think constantly about the past and/or future.  (Note: Past and future don't exist.  They are only ideas.)

B. To be aware of and enjoy the here-and-now.  (Note: The here-and-now is the only thing that does exist."


Set largely in the breathtaking and perilous world of rock climbing (one of the author's own personal passions) and employing duel first-person narrators, Elisa Carbone has crafted a high-interest teen adventure tale that probes such important issues as labeling, identity, suicide, mental illness, and questions about whether one should go through life fearful and resentful or boldly focused on living in the present and to the fullest.  That the author succeeds in addressing these issues in a significant manner amidst a wild, hormone-filled story of a cute teen guy (who has just escaped from a psych ward) and a cute, determined, and underachieving teen girl (who is escaping being exiled to boarding school) is the reason that this is one of the absolute best pieces of young adult literature I've so far encountered this year.




"There is total, uncomfortable silence.  Then I blurt out, 'You guys are going to follow all the rules laid down on you and you're going to get into college and pay your bills and one day you're going to wake up and wonder why you never just went for it -- why you never lived your own life instead of the life somebody else wanted you to live, why you couldn't just go on one absolutely incredible adventure when you were young and when someone you said was your friend needed you to go.'  I don't even know what I'm saying, don't even know if I believe the words that are coming out of my mouth, but I'm half crying and more than half angry, and then suddenly there he is, standing calmly, no sunglasses, blue eyes looking right at me.

"'I'll go.'"




"Can I help it if they're the most amazing bunch of idiots I've ever met?  I mean, this drop-dead cute girl is actually begging for someone to run away with her, and they've all got better things to do.  Not that she's a damsel in distress -- she's got a stance like a bulldog when she's angry, which she is right now, and all I can do is wait to see if she either says 'fine' or slugs me."


It is so entertaining how Critter -- who has acquired some mind-blowing perceptual abilities as a byproduct of his (prior-to-the-story) unsuccessful suicide attempt -- can seamlessly move back and forth in one breath between sharing jaw-dropping insights about life and expressing his oh-so-typical teenager feelings for P.K.     




"Critter is looking at me and I can see he is not thinking I'm just some PMS-crazed girl (which, okay, maybe I do have PMS right now) and he's not thinking how ugly I look with my nose runny and my eyes swelled half shut.  He's looking at me like...he accepts me.  Just like that, for who I am right now."

"Remember games and daisy chains and laughs
Got to keep the loonies on the path."
-- Pink Floyd, "Brain Damage"


Another question posed by the story is whether one can manifest one's own reality.  Critter often seems to be able to conjure up what he desires.  The author understates this aspect of the story, preventing it from overtaking the flow of action and hormones, but it is very much there. 


And there is the profound question about who, underneath, we really are:  




"'Let's take you, P.K., for example, okay?  You've got: Five-eleven climber, trad leader, athlete-girl clothes, funky rad hair, intriguing name, unsympathetic parents, supersmart, lousy grades, way cute, don't-mess-with-me attitude, miss my brothers, middle-of-the-pack social status.'"She laughs.  'I guess that's sort of me in a nutshell.'"'No!' I nearly shout it.  'That's not you at all.  That's the stuff hanging on your me suit.'"'But who am I without all that stuff?' she asks, bewildered."'Yes!  That's it.  That's exactly the point,' I say.  'Who are you without all that stuff.'"


Between the action and the danger, the hotness factor, the provocative issues, and the stellar writing throughout, JUMP is the sort of YA novel one should easily be able to sell teens on reading and a book that should absolutely be on the table for discussion when they begin contemplating next January's Best Books for Young Adults Top Ten choices.


Richie Partington, MLIS

Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.com


Moderator http://groups.yahoo.com/middle_school_lit/ 

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FTC NOTICE: Richie receives free books from lots of publishers who hope he will Pick their books.  You can figure that any review was written after reading and dog-earring a free copy received.  Richie retains these review copies for his rereading pleasure and for use in his booktalks at schools and libraries.

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