Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Jumped by Rita Williams-Garcia

On to my second book out of the five nominees for the National Book Award in Youth Literature. This time it's Rita Williams-Garcia's Jumped, which is also a Cybils nominee this year.

Jumped is an urban novel, told from three perspectives and takes place over the course of one school day -- about 7:30 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. with a bit of story taking place later. This is the story of a girl full of confidence and pride who inadvertently got in the way of a girl with a mission to cause trouble (to make herself feel better about her troubles) and a third girl - the one who saw it coming.

Leticia has to take class during 0 hour to make up for not doing so hot in school last year. She's a sly one, of course, and tricks her teacher into thinking she needs to use the bathroom desperately and is able to ditch out of class early that day.

Dominique, at that time, was making her way to her basketball coach's office to ask for play time in the game. She's not passing with a high enough grade in one of her classes and coach has benched her. She isn't happy. When her coach tells her she can't play, she leaves his office, rage rising.

And Trina? Well, her day is great. She's looking cute and her art work's put on display in the hallway. Girl's floating through her day ... and floats right past Dominique in the hallway who swears she's going to beat her at 2:45.

Leticia saw it all go down. But is it her responsibility to tell Trina? Should she intervene in a situation that could only get her in deeper trouble? Trina did nothing to warrant the anger Dominique has for her.

Jumped is an interesting story and it gives a good perspective into a culture I am totally unfamiliar with - the urban high school. With the proliferation of stories in the news lately, I thought this book was so contemporary and so well done without becoming an issue novel. But unfortunately, I think the enjoyment I got stopped there.

I found the book very slow for being such a small book. I think the pacing is intentional, building up how each character proceeds through their school day through the end scene. The end scene unfolds precisely as we imagine it will, but when it's over, well, there's no resolution. An issue novel would go the mile to resolve the story, and since this ISN'T an issue novel, there's not a good resolve. I'm still undecided how I feel about that as a reader taken into such an unfamiliar world. I believe readers who find this a familiar world may feel similarly.

Williams-Garcia knows the language and the people well. I don't think, though, that their voices are well developed. If this is intentional, it's brilliant, but my reading on the story -- and my understanding in the format of a very short time line and short novel more generally -- maybe didn't lead to that conclusion. The characters are pretty flat, built as just their situation. As a reader, I know why Dominique is mad and I know what Trina did to irritate her. Kind of.

Maybe I'm meant to feel like Leticia, unsure of what's going on and what to do about it.

That said, this is a quick read that will be enjoyed by so many teen girls, both those who know about this urban landscape and those who don't. I don't think this one will walk away the winner of the award, though -- but I think it was highly deserving, whether or not it was one of my favorites. I understand entirely why it is appealing and worthwhile, and the press it will get from its nomination is justly earned.

1 comment:

  1. Oh dear. . . I just picked this up today and I'm a little worried now.

    ReplyDelete

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