Rita Williams-Garcia’s latest book, Jumped is raw. I suppose I could be eloquent but the truth is, for me, raw best describes the tension and the fear I clung to the entire read. I wrote earlier on my blog that the story of three teens linked through a single event possesses all of the intensity of a “24” episode without cars and building exploding and Jack’s questionable tactics. A better analogy might be the movie “Cloverfield,” the intensity is ratcheted up because Jumped plays out like a movie shot with a single lens camera carried by an anonymous cameraman who records the events as they happen, unscripted and unedited. No commercials. No romantic scenes. No happy endings.
In Jumped, the author deftly uses point-of-view to relay a story of teen violence that is escalating in our schools. In an interview at Cynsations, the author said she wanted to create unsympathetic characters. And she succeeds. The reader is free to interpret the social implications based on the characters’ perceptions and motivations and not any influence from a writer’s ability to elicit an emotional response. Any sympathy, anger or any other emotion the reader experiences is based on the reader’s own morals and ideas about social mores.
The actors: Dominique is a baller. Basketball is her life and everything she does is motivated by the love of the game. The game is her life and for Dominique the very small world of a court and sweat is all there is and she desperately needs it to cope. Despite attending a social interaction course, Dominique has only scratched the surface enough to recognize techniques but she has almost no ability to apply what she has been taught. When Dominique describes everything in basketball metaphors and similes, she isn’t being clever; she is using the only vocabulary and skill set she understands. In her own words she acknowledges how limited her world is and she is desperate to live it in increments of minutes until she is no longer allowed to play which for her is the end of high school. Dominique has no aspiration beyond high school. She can’t dream about a world she can’t see and she can’t see beyond a court.
Trina is Dominique’s complete opposite. Trina is all sunshine and possibility. She believes that her dreams are not only absolutely possible but they are just waiting on her to complete each task necessary to fulfill her dreams. Where Dominique can only feel anxiety, hostility and the frustration of being boxed in, Trina thinks the world is blessed to have her. Trina is conceited and living in a fantasy world. She is so oblivious to the reality of the world she moves in that it isn’t that she is simply the random target of Dominique’s rage, but her oblivion adds to her vulnerability. As Leticia put it, Trina is so caught up in Trina she doesn’t even know the social boundaries of high school culture.
Leticia gets the grades because the grades get her daddy’s money and mom’s praise. Leticia is all about leading a pampered and entertained life. For Leticia, entertainment is centered largely on gossip and drama. Violence is drama, and Leticia has zero empathy for anyone who gets caught up in drama. The exceptions are herself and her girl, Bea. Leticia overhears Dominique tell her crew she’s going to jump Trina for invading her space (Trina being Trina bounces along the hallway greeting everyone). Problem is Dominique never gave her permission to speak let alone cut her space with all her sunshine and cheap pink bootylicious outfit. To Leticia, the impending beat down is live reality TV and she’s got a front row seat. She excitedly calls her girl, Bea who tells Leticia she has to warn Trina. Leticia is out down with her best friend. Is she out of her mind? Why get caught up in Trina’s mess except to watch it go down?
The story is a countdown told from each girl’s point-of-view. And while the foreshadowing is clear, I was still unprepared for the brutality of climax and the permanence of the event. Equally disturbing is Leticia’s final commentary. After watching a news clip of Trina, Leticia expresses no empathy. Now I didn’t expect her to changed by a single event but I was still stunned by her callousness, the complete disconnect. Leticia flips the channel quickly looking for her next fix of drama and gossip.
While the characters are flawed, I understand why Dominique is who she is. She is the product of suffocating circumstances and her self-fulfilling prophecy of a remaining imprisoned in mind and body is authentic here. Trina, while flighty doesn’t deserve the beating and therefore I feel for her despite her failings. Leticia, is no monster but she is the character I honestly do not like, not because she is spoiled and self-centered, I understand that. But I could not relate to her complete disregard for the victim or victims in general. If she had expressed any remorse or sympathy at the time of actual beating I could have empathized, but even when the ambulance pulls up, the entire episode has simply been a really good show for Leticia. I was depressed and angry for what she represents in the story.
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