Jumped In, Patrick Flores-Scott

Friday, May 04, 2018

"Don't judge a book by its cover." "Looks can be deceiving." "All the glitters isn't gold." "Beauty is only skin deep." We have quite a few sayings in English about using more than just appearances to make judgments about people. That idea is the foundation of the young adult novel Jumped In by Patrick Flores-Scott. The main character is Sam, a teenage boy who has perfected the art of slackerhood. He has learned how to keep his head down and avoid drawing the attention of teachers or his fellow students, thereby allowing him to drift through high school doing just enough to pass and escape the not-always-friendly scrutiny of his peers. But when he is partnered with Luis, a tough-looking Hispanic kid, for an English project, Sam's whole modus operandi is threatened. Sam is sure Luis is a gang member; his brother is infamous for his involvement in gangs, and Luis has a huge scar running up his neck. Sam knows there will be no slacking or hiding this time-if he doesn't do his part in their slam poetry assignment, Luis is bound to pummel him into the ground. But not everything is as it seems with Luis. Can these two boys from seemingly different worlds actually be friends? 

I love this book! Flores-Scott does an amazing job creating sympathetic characters, and the friendship that develops between these two boys is really quite sweet. Sam is the narrator, so his internal life and perspective are easy to see, but Flores-Scott uses Luis' poetry to give us insight into his character that proves his tough exterior is protecting a tender soul with depths of thought and feeling people wouldn't assume just by looking at him. I think that teens who have ever been misjudged by others based on the way they look, or because they are part of a stereotyped group, will completely get Luis and his internal struggle. 

Because Luis is so enthusiastic about the poetry assignment, he is able to inspire Sam as well. Sam has his own issues; his mom left two years ago, and he has a love of the rock of the Pacific Northwest (musical, not mineral) that none of his classmates seem to share. He feels isolated and alone most of the time, and he adopts his slacker persona as a cover for these feelings, and as a way to cope with feeling so out of place at school. The way he blossoms through his friendship with Luis is a reversal of the white savior syndrome that so many books about young people of color and their white teachers/peers fall into. Luis is the one that saves Sam, not the other way around. Though Sam does get his chance to repay the friendship Luis showed him; after a gang fight, Luis disappears, and Sam has to put himself front and center with teachers and peers in a way that he never would have if Luis hadn't become such an influence in his life.

The high-interest nature of this book, coupled with the easy readability, make it a good choice for inclusion in a readers' workshop or other independent reading activity. It would also make a good novel to use in middle or high school (with lower level readers) to explore friendship, assumptions, stereotypes, and overcoming personal challenges.

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