Catherine Ryan Hyde, October 2010. Hurrah for the recent spate of high-quality books about trans kids! I really liked Almost Perfect and I Am J, but both fell apart at the end; the former got too melodramatic and the latter too clichéd. Still very strong books, but nothing on my new favorite: Jumpstart the World. The plot: Elle is a fifteen-year-old girl whose mom kicks her out because her new boyfriend doesn’t like teenagers, so Mom rents Elle her own apartment, across town. If you can suspend your disbelief for a moment to accept this unlikely happenstance, you won’t be able to put the book down (indeed, I read it all last night in bed). Elle befriends the thirtysomething couple across the hall, develops a big crush on Frank, and is stunned to learn his body is female – sort of a gender-reversed Almost Perfect. Like Katcher’s Logan, Elle freaks out, but unlike Logan, she deals with her feelings. Worried that she might be gay, she asks her best friend Wilbur, “What do you think [my crush on a trans man] says about me?” He answers, “Maybe it says you’re looking for a man who’s gentle. You know, more than most men are….I’m looking for a man who’s kinder than most men I meet. Maybe you are, too.” Nice.
There are numerous supporting characters running the gamut of sexuality; for example, there’s a lovely explanation of how Wilbur isn’t trans even though he wears eyeliner. Hyde manages to work in this rainbow of genderqueers without lecturing or breaking out of the story. Another special bonus is the chapter titles, which include the following:
- Isn’t Annie Lennox Straight?
- I Don’t Even Know What Top Surgery Is
- Mascara and Other Things that Run