I'm grateful to author Peggy Eddleman. Because Sky Jumpers got me out of a bit of a reading funk. I've been slow to get through books, and have actually abandoned several of late. But as soon as I started Sky Jumpers, well, I just wanted to keep reading. And that's what we're looking for, isn't it? Books that you just want to lose yourself in? Sky Jumpers fits the bill.
Sky Jumpers is middle grade post-apocalyptic fiction with a strong female protagonist. Sky Jumpers is set in a largely depopulated world, following the "green bombs" of World War III. Twelve-year-old Hope lives with her adoptive parents in White Rock, a small (apparently mid-western) town that is struggling to survive. Besides undertaking basic activities (like growing food), the folks in White Rock pour all of their energy into trying to invent things. The green bombs have changed just enough, including the chemical properties of steel, to make this a tricky business. And Hope, our heroine, though courageous and decisive, well, Hope is singularly bad at inventing. But when her family and her town,are in danger, Hope doesn't hesitate.
The world building in Sky Jumpers doesn't feel contrived, despite the obvious editorial convenience of the green bombs having changed some things but not others. It feels like realistic fiction, with a dash of unconventional science. As an engineer myself, I enjoyed the focus on inventions (even though the inventing life wasn't a good fit for Hope). This is the kind of book that will make kids want to invent things themselves.
Hope is a solid character. She's a bit reckless, and ends up in trouble a lot. But she has her vulnerabilities, too. Like this:
"When Carina finished showing her invention, she sat next to me and put her hand on my knee. "It's okay, Hope. I'm sure you're not the only one bad at inventing."
Maybe I wasn't. But it definitely felt like I was the worst. Like everyone else was at least good enough." (Page 48-49)
"I couldn't help wondering how many times my parents had wished they had a kid with their own genes, someone they could have passed on their talents to. Someone who didn't keep messing things up." (Page 65)
(For the record, she has great parents. It's not them making her feel like this.) Only gradually does Hope come to recognize some of her strengths.
Other things I liked about Sky Jumpers:
- Sky jumping is very cool, though I won't spoil it by telling you what it is.
- The plot, particularly in the second half of the book, is action-filled and suspenseful, and steers away from being too grim for middle grade readers.
- Hope has a male best friend who is not a love interest, and another male friend who might be. But it's all very PG so far. No visible love triangle, which is refreshing.
- There's a very cute five year old who tags along with the big kids, and adds opportunities for being protective. But Brenna is strong-willed and fun, not a helpless doll.
- There's a little bit of looking at "relics" of the previous society, which is something that I always enjoy. The kids in Hope's class are fascinated by the idea of wall to wall carpeting, for example. And they don't really believe what they hear about cell phones at all. Sky Jumpers is set 40-odd years after World War III, so there are people who remember "before". Hence the emphasis on inventing things to make life easier.
In short, Sky Jumpers has an action-filled plot, a pleasing emphasis on science, and likeable characters, all set against a compelling backdrop. I was pleased to see Sky Jumpers listed as "Book 1", because, although the plot is thoroughly wrapped up in this book, it would be a shame for this level of world building to be squandered on a single book. Sky Jumpers is highly recommended for middle grade readers, or anyone who enjoys adventure.
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids)
Publication Date: September 24, 2013
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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