Sunday, December 31, 2006

Jumping the Scratch - Sarah Weeks

I first heard of Sarah Weeks' Jumping the Scratch from Jen Robinson's review, which was so well written, I wanted to read the book, despite it being a non-genre book (and as you know, there are so many SF&F books published each year, that merely keeping up with them is hard, so I don't often read non-genre books). I had to go to my local Borders store to order a copy and then waited nearly a month to get it, and then another week to read it as I was finishing up my Cybils reading). However, it was well worth the wait.

Jamie Reardon and his mother move from Battle Creek to Traverse City, in north Michigan, after his father runs off with the cashier at the MicroMart. They go to live with Jamie's Aunt Sapphy at the Wondrous Acres trailer park as his aunt's recent freak accident at the local cherry factory and she is unable to make any new memories, although she remembers the past as clearly as she always did. Jamie wants to help Sapphy find a "magic trigger" that will help her to recover the ability to make memories, or allow it to "jump the scratch", like a needle on an old 78 record. Somewhat ironically, Jamie himself is desperately trying to forget an incident on Christmas Eve the previous year. Initially the reader only knows that the incident involved a button pressed into his cheek, a taste of butterscotch flooding his mouth, and Old Gray, who's the manager of the trailer park. The memory of this incident literally haunts Jamie, preventing him from making any new friends or doing well in his new school. He tries to get help from his strange classmate, Audrey Krouch, who claims to have ESP and offers to hypnotise him (Jamie hopes she can hypnotise him into forgetting the incident, although he won't tell her what he wants to forget). Finally, in desperation, he tells Sapphy, knowing that she will have forgotten about it by the morning, but somehow (and maybe a little too conveniently) Jamie triggers Sapphy and instead of forgetting, she remembers and tells his mother, and the whole incident comes to light.

What I really liked about this book is the way that Weeks builds up the suspense about what happened to Jamie, and reveals it only gradually. Whilst older readers will probably guess quite early on, as I did, the nature of what happened to Jamie, younger readers probably won't realise until Jamie relives it under hypnosis. I also thought it interesting that Jamie is narrating his story a long time after the incident happened, as he makes clear on the very first page.


Anonymous said...

Hey Michele,

So glad that you enjoyed the book! It must be frustrating reading reviews of books not published in the UK - I admire your persistence in getting hold of this one. I liked the gradual build up of the incident, too. I also liked the fact that although it's centrally about something ugly, the author manages to keep it from being at all overwhelming, making the book accessible to even relatively young kids.

Thanks for the link back to my review, and for linking to this one in the comments. I'm finally back from my latest travels, and hope to catch up on blogging soon. I'm not nearly as good as you are about keeping up when I'm not at home.

Happy New Year!

Michele said...

Hey Jen

Happy New Year to you too !

Yes it does get a little frustrating - but good things come to those who wait - eventually ! And to be fair, we get books before you do quite often and then you guys have to chew your nails in frustration (or persuade a friendly Brit to buy on your behalf ! *grins*)

It's a great little book and I was very impressed with the way Weeks handled the incident. And you are quite right, of course, about the book being accessible and not all doom and gloomy !

As for continuing to Blog whilst I'm not at home - my shiny laptop is indispensible in that respect !