09 August 2011

Reviews: Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves & Jumpstart the World by Catherine Ryan Hyde

This year's Nerds Heart YA has just about done me in. I'm a couple days late reporting my bracket, but I blame the books. I was given two great but totally different books to review, and the decision hasn't been easy.

Before I talk about the books, let me tell you about the Nerds Heart YA. This bracket-style competition brings attention to books that deserve more buzz and "feature characters, or are penned by authors, who fall within the following categories: Person(s) of Color (POC), GLBT, Disability, Mental Illness, Religious Lifestyle, Lower Socioeconomic Status, and Plus-Size."

Bleeding Violet, the debut novel of Dia Reeves, focuses on sixteen-year-old Hanna Järvinen, half-Finnish and half-African American who was rejected by her mother from birth. Hanna lived with her father, Joosef, in Finland and in Dallas, Texas, until his death, after which she moved in with her paternal aunt. When Aunt Ulla reveals her intention of permanently committing Hanna, who has bipolar disease, to a mental institution, the teen hits her over the head with a rolling pin and hitchhikes to Portero, Texas, hoping her mother (whom she's never met) will take her in.

Catherine Ryan Hyde's Jumpstart the World also centers around a sixteen-year-old. Elle is moving into a new apartment and will be attending a new school. Her mother found the apartment and arranged for the movers. Nothing too different here . . . except Elle's mother is not moving with her daughter. Instead, she's going back home to her new man, who doesn't want to have a teenager in the house and who thinks Elle's old school is too expensive. Thus the teen finds herself alone and on her own. Fortunately, the nice neighbors, Frank and Molly, are friendly and Elle manages to meet a few kids on her first day of school.

Both books deal with mother-daughter issues, abandonment, and adjusting to a new home, but that's pretty much the end of their similarities. Hanna has been diagnosed with bipolar disease and doesn't always take her medication. When she is off her meds, she hallucinates and talks with her dead father, making her an unreliable narrator. Things get complicated when she moves to Portero because not all of what Hanna sees is the result of her illness. The town is a portal (thus its name) to other worlds and other creatures, who are none too friendly to humans. Hanna's mother is sure her daughter will be killed and wants her as far away from danger as possible. When Hanna proves tougher than anyone could imagine, she is allowed to stay and learn the secrets of the town. The major themes in Bleeding Violet--a surprisingly deep, fast-paced, and well-written paranormal--are mental illness, racial identity, maternal abandonment, and death.

Elle's mother leaves her for a man and seems little concerned for daughter's safety. Elle's angry behavior and distrust of others is understandable, and the teen often behaves in ways she knows will upset her mother and will keep others at bay. At school, she falls in with the crowd of kids who are on the outside or are different in some way (including sexual identity), and at home she finds herself developing a crush on her neighbor Frank. When an accident reveals Frank's transgender nature, Elle is confused and feels betrayed. Ultimately, she must find a way to look beyond the surface and learn the importance of acceptance, true friendship, and love. The major themes in Jumpstart the World--a somewhat predictable contemporary novel--are sexual identity, abandonment, and self-acceptance.

The Winner: Choosing between these books was difficult, but ultimately Bleeding Violet is the novel that must move on in the bracket contest. The world building, strong female lead, and gripping plot make this book a winner. One of the refreshing aspects of the novel is the idea that being normal and fitting in are relative things and may depend on where you are, who you know, and what else is going on around you.

Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves
Published by Simon Pulse, 2010
ISBN-13: 9781416986195

Jumpstart the World by Catherine Ryan Hyde
Published by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2010
ISBN-13: 9780375866654

Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


Ana S. 8/9/11, 7:25 AM  

I've heard wonderful things about Dia Reeves, so I'm excited to see Bleeding Violet move on! Now I just have to read it myself :P

Veens 8/9/11, 9:49 AM  

Now I really want to read both of these books. Sounds very good.

Pam (@iwriteinbooks) 8/9/11, 10:03 AM  

Ooh, haven't read either one. They both look good, though.

Zibilee 8/9/11, 10:42 AM  

I think I would have made the same choice. Bleeding Violet sounds like a really solid and interesting read. I will have to look out for it.

Lenore Appelhans 8/9/11, 11:27 AM  

I have a feeling Bleeding Violet will be in the final!

bermudaonion 8/9/11, 12:28 PM  

It sounds like both of these books have value for teen readers. I'm making note of the titles.

bermudaonion 8/9/11, 12:28 PM  

It sounds like both of these books have value for teen readers. I'm making note of the titles.

Nise' 8/9/11, 1:48 PM  

I'll be on the look out for both titles as I've read Catherine's previous books. Glad to get a new author recommendation.

ivanova 8/10/11, 12:50 PM  

I read both of these, and I can see why you had a hard time choosing!

Anonymous,  8/10/11, 7:25 PM  

Plus, Bleeding Violet has that whole bonked on the head with a rolling pin thing, which seems to have fascinated me more than just about anything else you mentioned about the books.

Alyssa from Hunger Games Summary 8/11/11, 3:49 AM  

You've put together a list of strong competitors and I do agree that Bleeding Violet is probably the best out of those three.

Michelle 8/12/11, 10:46 AM  

I've heard such great things about both of these books. Despite having a tough choice it looks like you enjoyed reading both along the way.

Katy 8/15/11, 2:56 AM  

Bleeding Violet is such a trip to read--it was surprisingly a book I could not put down. And now you have me wanting to read the other book as well because it sounds a bit unusual as well.

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