The first time Davy jumped was when his dad was beating him. The second time was when a trucker tried to rape him. Both times Davy ended up in his favorite place — the local public library. Soon Davy learned that he could control his teleportation, so he left home and started a new life in New York City. His new skill, the ability to instantly transport himself to any place he’s ever visited, helped him achieve the freedom he always desired. At first Davy lives for himself, happy to be away from school and his father, but when a terrorist attack affects him personally, he decides to use his talent to get revenge.
Jumper, by Steven Gould, is an action-packed exciting adventure about a likeable teenager who has an awesome superpower. Davy is mostly easy to believe in. He’s a little too urbane for his age and experience — he quickly transforms from high school dropout to fine-dining connoisseur, and I’ve never met a teenager as well-read as Davy — but other than that he acts like a normal kid. He’s a bit selfish and makes some impulsive mistakes, but he genuinely wants to be a good guy. He’s got an emo streak that’s a little annoying, but that’s understandable since he’s dealing with abuse and abandonment issues. He’s also worried that he could become an alcoholic like his father and he feels guilty about not telling his new girlfriend the truth about himself.
What I liked best about Davy’s story is that what Davy decides to do with his power is completely believable. Sometimes I read stories about people with really cool superpowers and I think “if I had that power, I’d do such and such” and I’m usually disappointed that the character didn’t think of that. Often the problem is that the character is just too ethical to do the fun stuff that normal teenagers would fantasize about doing if they had superpowers. But not Davy. Some of the things Davy does are selfish, some are vengeful, and some are just fun.
And fun is about all there is to Jumper. There’s an exciting plot and lots of cool tricks with the jumping, but there’s not much depth beyond that. There’s no explanation for the teleportation and there aren’t any other speculative elements, so the book hardly deserves the classification of “science fiction.” Nothing about Jumper changed me or made me think, but it definitely entertained me. When I finished Jumper I started the sequel, Reflex.
Jumper takes place around 1990 and was first published in 1992, before 9/11, so the way that Islam and terrorism were viewed and dealt with is very different than they are today. This, plus the lack of cell phones and Internet, will make Jumper feel a little dated to teen readers, but to me it just felt nostalgic since I was around Davy’s age at the time when the story takes place. However, Reflex takes place ten years later (published in 2004) and a third book, Impulse, was just published last month.
I listened to Audible Frontier’s version of Jumper which was narrated by the incredibly awesome Macleod Andrews. Macleod is so good that I’d forget he was narrating. It just felt like Davy was telling me his story — totally convincing. If you’re an audio reader, I’d recommend Jumper on audio. If you’re not an audio reader yet, this would be a good one to start with.
Jumper has been marketed to a YA audience but I won’t be giving it to my kids. The abuse and attempted rape are disturbing, it’s rather violent, and the language and sex aren’t really appropriate either. By the way, you probably know there is a movie based on Jumper. I haven’t seen it, but have heard it’s pretty bad, and those who have seen the movie and read the book report that the book is much different and much better.