Monday, April 18, 2011

Jumped, by Rita Williams-Garcia

Jumped, by Rita Williams-Garcia.  New York: HarperTeen, 2009.  169 pp. ISBN 9780060760922

Leticia just heard that Dominique's going to beat up Trina after school.  Will she step in to try to change events?

Realistic Fiction

This short novel is composed of three alternating narrators' first-person accounts of one day at high school. Trina is a happy and somewhat vain yet friendly girl who loves creating art.  Dominique lives for basketball, and in all area of life can become aggressive if she feels she's being challenged.  Leticia lives to talk on her beloved cellphone and share gossip. As the novel opens, Trina walks down a school corridor, by chance passing by Dominique and her friends. As is Trina's habit with everyone, she says "Hey" to the girls, even though she does not know them. Dominique believes Trina to be challenging her, and after Trina is out of earshot, Dominique indicates aloud that she'll be beating her up after school.  Unseen, Leticia witnesses the entire scene. Each girl then narrates her day at school  We do not find out until the end whether Leticia decides to warn Trina, or whether Dominique actually follows through with her plan.

I found this to be a quick and really enjoyable read, narrated in true-to-life teen voices.  Each character's voice is quite distinct.  Yet the girls' similarity is that each is quite self-involved, and does not appear to be much influenced by the opinions of friends/classmates or the lessons they could glean from the often extremely relevant topics that are discussed in their classes.  This self-involvement is really the key to the novel's conclusion, for better or worse. The plot is not fast-paced, but this is not an action novel, but a day-in-the-life story.  The slowness of some scenes mirrors these teens' frustration at their days and lives being constrained by an order imposed by others.  And the fact that the narrators alternate frequently and their voices are so honest more than makes up for the slow plot moments.  The novel's a powerful look at the various factors which may trigger/encourage a teen to bully/hurt another teen --and perhaps even more importantly, the critical role that "bystander" teens who overhear threats of bullying can play in potentially stopping incidents of bullying/violence.

This book could help teens who are being bullied and also bullies themselves to better understand the dynamics of bullying. 

I'd heard really good things about this author, and am interested in the topic of bullying.

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