Monday, January 18, 2010

Jumped by Rita Williams-Garcia

Would you get involved in order to stop a fight? Leticia overhears one girl planning to jump another when school lets out, and realizes that the other doesn't know. And Leticia knows, "Girl fights are ugly. Girl fights are personal." But Leticia believes in minding her own business, despite the urgings of her friend Bea on the cell phone, like the voice of conscience.

Well-named Dominique has to control her space and her status. Her eye-for-an-eye retribution to any encroachment has gotten her assigned to a special class on Social Interaction. But playing ball, especially basketball, is the narcotic that helps her manage her anger. When she is benched because of a low grade, the internal pressure builds and she's ready to take offense at anything. That's when self-absorbed Trina brushes past Dominique in the hall and becomes her target, and only Leticia knows.

Each chapter details the thoughts of one of the three girls as the day progresses. Dominique searches for a way to get back on the team, but every refusal makes her more determined to take it out on Trina. 'Nique observes that she writes the same essay for every assigned book report: rising action, point of no return, falling action, but she fails to see her own approaching point of no return.

Leticia doesn't want to get involved and refuses to see any relevance in A Separate Peace, the book she's been assigned. And besides, she's broken a nail in gym class, a "silk-wrapped, hand-painted, custom-designed, three-quarter-inch, square-cut nail tip with the sparkling faux diamond."

Trina is self-convinced that the whole world is her fan club. During a journal-writing exercise we learn that she doesn't know who her father is and there's a hint that her overblown self-confidence is her way of dealing with insecurity. She drops other hints that she has encountered "haters" in the past. Nevertheless, she is a talented artist and possibly as hot a chick as she imagines. She spends the day bubbling while Dominique burns and Leticia dithers.

With each class period the tension builds, whether Dominique will find another outlet for her anger or whether Leticia will warn Trina before 2:45. New in 2009, Jumped is in the VBPL catalog and shelved with Teen fiction. Its ethical dilemma and high school atmosphere remind me of Robert Cormier's The Chocolate War.

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