Even if Williams-Garcia hadn't labeled each chapter with the narrator's name, we would still be able to tell that the novel is narrated by three distinct voices (okay, four including Ivan). This is because each voice is different, and each tone reflects its narrator.
Trina has a voice that kind of makes us want to cover our ears. She is, without a doubt, the most chipper and positive narrator in the novel. Check her out:
I do my shaky-shake and keep shaking down the hall. I know he's laughing, trying to look serious, but why turn around and bust him? I brighten his day. He'll smile from now until 2:45. Why? Because that's what I do. Bring a little joy to someone's drab, dull day. That's right. I bring color to this school. (5.23)
Trina honestly believes that she makes the world a better place just by being in it. Just look at the words she uses to describe her encounter: laugh, brighten, smile, joy, and color. Trina's tone fluctuates between being really appealing and really annoying. And while we doubt that AP Shelton is really cutting Trina the slack that she thinks he is, he's definitely noticing her. Trina is not invisible because she makes herself visible, and this refusal to sink into the background comes through in her narration.
It'd be too easy to say that Dominique is just an aggressor. In fact, we understand very quickly that she's far more reflective about who she is and what makes her the ways she is than Trina. Even so, though, Dominique's aggressive nature often comes out in her tone during the chapters she narrates:
So she sets it, perfect frog arms spring, and it's up, straight up, ninety degrees. I'm off, I'm charging, I'm under it and it's hanging in the sweet spot and pss-slap! Hammer to nail. A spinning rocket to the back court line. That was good contact. Good slap. Good sting. My hand is burning. I could hit another. (18.18)
In gym class, when Dominique tries to cut in line, she's sent to the back and can only hit the volleyball at the end of class. Look at her language: The ball is sweet, the set is perfect, and then the contact and pain is described as "good." There's something about the aggression that Dominique enjoys.
But she's not just a violent person. Dominique is far more aware and honest about herself than we expect. She thinks:
I'm not dumb. This is it. This and Fourth Street is what I got. I have to fight grown men just to be picked to play. They be knocking me down just to make me sit down. Ride the bench. Know my place. So this team is all the shot I get. I'm done once I'm out. (15.17)
Dominique doesn't really open up to anyone, but we get a brief glimpse into her life beyond school. And she knows—knows—her limitations. Dominique has basketball. That's it. It's so sad to think that if Dominique had been a little more reflective about Trina's perceived offense, the fight might not have occurred. Still, though, she brings reflection as well as aggression to her pages.
Leticia is straight up sassy. She talks back to teachers, tries to get the secretary to change her class, and attempts to sue the school for a broken nail. Sometimes, however, we totally agree with her assessment of the situation:
Our class has Black Boy, The Stranger, and Mr. Walsh's favorite, A Separate Peace. "A book every high school student must read," according to Walsh. I see his point. One day I might transfer to an elite military school, befriend a bunch of losers, climb a tree, and watch a classmate fall and break his leg. (7.6)
The odds of this happening are less likely than Leticia taking responsibility for any of her actions, but Leticia says some pretty funny things throughout the novel. Sometimes she intends them to be funny, like above, but sometimes they're funny unintentionally. Like when Leticia finds Mr. Yerkewicz having a heart attack in front of his class:
In the middle of my calming Bea down, Principal Bates tore Celina, my little girl, from my hands. One minute Celina was cradled to my ear, the next minute my warm little Celina was ripped away. I almost had a heart attack on the spot. I was no good for the rest of the day. (29.12)
She doesn't call the ambulance, or rush out of the room, or try to save the man's life. No, she calls and tells Bea all about Mr. Y's heart attack while he's having it. And then she has the audacity to compare losing her cell phone for the day to having a heart attack herself. Yikes, right? The gossip is far more important to Leticia than the man, and she shows no empathy for her teacher. This is only one example, but time and again Leticia is by far the most self-centered character in the novel and the tone she takes to events as they happen shows it.
The narrators are all teens, the setting is a high school, and the plot takes place during one school day, in class, in the hallways, and in the lunchroom. The internal dialogue each character is pretty representative of how teens think, meaning a self-centered, slightly skewed perception of reality. And the mini-conflicts of the day are all teen drama: grades, nails, looks, etc. In other words, this book is one hundred percent written for young adult readers.
In extras at the end of the novel, Williams-Garcia says that she sees Jumped as a sort of Greek tragedy with flawed characters. So what's this mean? Greek tragedy usually deals with morality; it often presents a situation in which a hero falls from grace. But in Jumped, the characters all start out fallen in their own ways. Like it's Greek origins, though, Jumped is designed to inspire big, hard feelings in the audience. Whereas a classical tragedy aims to ultimately leave the audience free of these feelings, though, we think Jumped is more of a cautionary tale.
It's a one word title: Jumped. It's simple and concise, and it doesn't give us any clue that the book is nuanced and complex and about oh so much more than one girl jumping another girl after school.
After the first three chapters of the book, we think we know the story: perceived insult, school day, attack. Badda bing bang boom. But as we read, we start to understand that the characters are slightly more (but not much more) than their archetypes.
Dominique is more than a girl with a temper, Leticia maybe does have a conscience, and Trina might be more than her bubbly superficial personality. This is when we realize that this story about a fight is actually about so much more. It's about the school where the altercation takes place, the authority figures and what power they actually have, as well as how the students function within the school. And especially the decisions and indecision that leads to the attack.
But the title is still short. As Williams-Garcia has said, these attacks just happen, and they usually happen in a short amount of time. So even though the book is multifaceted, it boils down to a senseless beating that changes only Trina, not the attacker or the witness.
I keep clicking with the remote, looking for something good. Something juicy. You know, it's by pure luck that I caught Dominique and Trina on channel nine. And I'm like, wow. I finally know real people on television. And to think, I was there when it all went down. I could have been on that news program being interviewed. I knew all about it from start to finish. I just look at the TV and I can't believe it. I just can't believe it. (35.18)
We can't believe it either, Leticia. But for totally different reasons.
Leticia is the one person who could have prevented the attack on Trina. She could have told Trina. She could have told her teacher who noticed her pen tapping. She could have told the secretary when talking to her about French class. She has a bunch of chances to make the situation right, and she chooses each time not to.
And then Trina is in the hospital for weeks. From the coma she's in to the reconstructive facial surgeries to the brain damage she suffers, her life will absolutely never be the same again. So while Dominique is the person who beats Trina up, it's Leticia who allows the beating to take place. She shares the blame.
So when Leticia feels no responsibility for what happens to Trina, when she only looks at Trina and Dominique through the lens of an entertainment consumer, we cringe a little—okay, a lot—because Dominique's fall and Trina's climb out of a coma are just dirt to Leticia. It's all just gossip, "Something juicy." Dominique and Trina aren't even real people to Leticia, even though she went to school with them, and instead just actors in the drama that Leticia seeks.
The worst part is that Leticia will continue to seek this drama. Because of her lack of empathy, she will continue to view people whose lives are destroyed as entertainment. But then, their lives aren't her business, unless she wants a front seat at the show.
Everything important takes place at the high school in Jumped. "But wait," you say. "What about Dominique's ball game? Ivan's visit to Trina in the hospital? Bea and Leticia's confrontation with Jay?" Fair enough, Shmoopers.
While it's true that some events happen off campus, the real heart of the novel is what happens on school grounds. This is where Leticia comes to her big passive decision (yes, we're calling it that), where Dominique feels like she's driven to violence, and where Trina expects people to pay attention to her. And even though all the girls reflect on things that have happened at home or in their neighborhoods, what's important are the events at school.
It's a big deal that neither the school nor its location is named. We get the sense that Jumped is a universal story, and that the point is that Trina and Dominique and Leticia's triangle can happen anywhere, at any time. The only dates that are listed are historical ones, but since the book was published in 2009 and there's nothing suggesting otherwise, we're thinking that's around when it takes place, too.
Williams-Garcia has played it smart, and the contents of the classes reflect the symbols in the story. Leticia takes geometry during zero hour (hop on over to the "Symbols" section to unpack why this matters), plus there are several references to France in Leticia's French class (duh), as well as her English and history classes (again, we'll direct you to the "Symbols" section to dig deeper with these). The classes, in other words, contain clues to the plot and characters, so while you might space out in Geometry normally, while reading you just might want to pay attention.
Anyone who's ever been in high school can tell you that lunch is one of the most important times of the day. It's where gossip and drama spread like wildfire, where friendships and relationships are made and broken, and all within the space of about half an hour, where seating arrangements are of the utmost importance.
So it comes as no surprise when Dominique reaffirms her decision to beat up Trina at lunch, as Trina's stepping on a few of the Boosters' toes, and that lunch is also when Leticia commits to not telling Trina about Dominique's intentions. Lunch can be a tornado of activity, and sometimes, people are caught in the swirling winds.
If lunch is the heart of the school, the arteries are the hallways; these are where news travels. It's surprising how much can take place in a single passing period, and the high school in Jumped is no different. Every hey is important, every gaze met or avoided can hold meaning. Nonverbal language reigns supreme. Check it out:
No one's talking about it but the buzz is there, like the gray wall tiles are there. It's in everyone's eyes. (24.1)
Just like the fight starts without a word being exchanged when Trina brushes against Dominique in the hallway, word of the fight spreads without any words, too. So pay close attention to everything that goes on in the hallways—they're abuzz with nonverbal communication.
It's tempting to classify Jumped as a sea level novel because of its setting (high school). Sure, the language is pretty easy because it's written as dialogue and internal thoughts, but the moral relativism in the novel as well as the historical and literary references catapult Jumped into Base Camp territory.
The novel explores topics important to teenagers in depth, including the concepts of reputation, snitching, and self-perception, but the reader has to do the bulk of the thinking about these ideas since the narrators are so unreliable. So put your thinking cap on, because the climb to the climax is steady and surprisingly heavy.
Rita Williams-Garcia has written a novel that takes place during one school day. No really—it covers less than eight hours. Which means that she needs to move the story fast. There's not a lot of chance for digression and backstory, and, as Williams-Garcia has said, she didn't want to give easy outs for any of the characters.
So it makes a lot of sense that the style of the novel is conversational, though much of the conversation is internal dialogue the narrators have. Williams-Garcia has to pack a lot of plot and character development into a very short time-span, so each word counts. Take a look at Leticia's thoughts in the lunchroom:
But look at Trina. She can't just walk back to her table. She got to do that shaky-shake thing like she can't get enough attention. And that's why Trina can't blame anyone but Trina for this mess. (22.10)
This is how people really talk—starting with conjunctions, thinking in fragmented ways, using non-standard American English. Fortunately, though, Williams-Garcia avoids too much stream of consciousness writing, which can be a danger in first person reflective narration. Instead, her narrators are remarkably matter-of-fact with their words, Dominique most of all. For instance:
She should say what she means and mean what she says.
I'm not confused. (Dominique, 10.39-41)
There's not much to explain here. Dominique, true to her self-perceived nature, is pretty straightforward. (As to whether her statements are true or not, check out the "Narrator" section.) Trina's style, though, is a little more broken and jumbled:
Feel all this love. Popular. What? So many fans. So many friends and so many who want to be. They either caught the shaky-shake and stomp in the caf or they saw my artwork in the gallery. I need a Princess Di wave. (25.5)
It's easy to follow her narration, but we get the sense that she's got too much bouncing around in her head to really form cohesive thoughts in the same way Dominique and Leticia do. That must be purposeful; perhaps her thinking is as shallow as her nature.
This one's the easy one, and it pops up all over the place. What do triangles have? Three sides, Shmoopers. And when do you study triangles? In geometry. And this story opens with Leticia taking a zero hour geometry class. Just like that, we're set up to look for triangular—or three-sided—dynamics.
Think: Aggressor, victim, witness. Think: Trina, Dominique, Leticia.
Triangles run right through the book, and references to them are rarely obtuse. Leticia is the most explicit about the triangle she says she's not in (though we know she is). She says:
It's a Dominique-Trina line, not a Dominique-Trina-Leticia triangle. Why? Because I'm not in it. It's not my business. Therefore, I stay out of it. (13.5)
But Leticia doesn't have a choice, really, whether the situation is a triangle or a line. She may not want to be part of the triangle, but she inevitably is since she overheard Dominique's threat and Trina didn't. In fact, Leticia continually thinks of the situation from a geometric perspective.
And this is my point. Why would I get involved in Trina's life when I don't know for sure if I saw what I thought I saw? Who is to say that Dominique doesn't mean something else? Who is to say I wasn't seeing it from the wrong angle? (9.29)
This kind of thinking implies direct involvement whether Leticia admits it or not.
There are a ton of other triangles in the novel. The attack takes place at 2:45, or two forty-five degree angles in a triangle. Two of the angles—Dominique and Trina—come crashing together since the third angle, Leticia, opts not to do her part to keep them apart. Heck, even Dominique, Shayne, and Viv make up their own triangle of friends, with Viv and Shayne equally supporting Dominique, who is much more dominant. So keep your eyes open for references to triangles, geometry, and angles while reading, Shmoopers. You may be surprised by what you find.
This is a quick reference, but a meaningful one nonetheless. Trina came to school the previous year in some scandalous attire, and AP Shelton made her put a sweatshirt on. As she remembers this, Trina thinks:
The hunters spot the innocent zebra peacefully munching on a patch of grass. They creep up from behind, blast the unsuspecting zebra in the butt with a tranquilizer dart, and then throw a net over her. (5.10)
This sounds suspiciously like Dominique (the hunter) sneaking up on an innocent zebra (Trina). Plus, Trina calls the zebra a "her," so this definitely sounds like a metaphor to us. For more on Dominique as the hunter, be sure to check out her analysis over in the "Characters" section.
The mural symbolizes Trina. After all, it's her work, her colors, and her passion on display on the wall. We definitely want to consider, though, what Trina paints: Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Harriet Tubman, and Rosa Parks. Each one of these African American leaders and heroes were victims of senseless violence, giving us a clue about what's going to happen to Trina.
But the mural also symbolizes Trina's life. Even though she's in the hospital, her art continues to give color and life to the school—like the leaders she's painted, her vibrancy and legacy live on. It kind of gives us hope that Trina may recover in some way and, if nothing else, makes it clear that she's left her mark.
A mini history lesson: Germany invaded France during World War II; France didn't see it coming.
A mini analysis: Trina is France, and Dominique is Germany.
Want the longer version? Okay. Here goes.
Trina is France. Check out Leticia's references to France:
I almost ask Mr. Walsh what does Germany ganging up on poor little France have to do with Gene and Finny and Leper and Quackenbush. (7.21)
We already know that Dominique and her girls Shayne and Viv are going to gang up on Trina in the lunchroom, though Dominique is the only one who attacks. We'd hope that Leticia would see the unfairness of it all. But she doesn't. Instead she says:
I can see why Germany was through with France. France thought she was cute with all her invisible consonants and invisible lines, and Germany was trying to keep things real. (11.16)
You know who else Leticia thinks finds herself a little too cute? Yup—Trina. Leticia's referencing the Maginot lines made between France and Germany during WWII, which is also a shout-out to her answer earlier in English class, when she says:
"Maginot lines either means imaginary lines or not imaginary lines. It depends how you look at it." […] I'm positive "imaginary" is the English translation of Maginot. It sounds right. (7.16)
Strangely enough, Leticia's somewhat right since the Germans just bypassed the Maginot lines, almost as if they didn't exist. Translated onto Trina's character, she's attacked as though there's no reason not to—even though there's actually no reason to hurt her in the first place.
Leticia thinks that she understands why Germany (Dominique) might be done with France (Trina): She recognizes that France and Germany, well, they have nothing in common. France thinks she's cute; Germany is gritty and real. We can't get more obvious, Shmoopers.
The last France reference is from Mr. Yerkewicz, the teacher who had a heart attack, who mentions the Treaty of Versailles, which occurred at the end of World War I. Basically, the Germans had to pay reparations and decrease their military… but the treaty didn't work, since Germany invaded France at the start of WWII. As Yerkewicz says, "Those French didn't stand a chance" (29.15), and when he does, we know Trina doesn't either.
Jumped has three main narrators: Leticia, Trina, and Dominique. (Ivan also narrates a chapter, but more on him later.) Each chapter alternates narrators, so we get to see the school, the main ladies, and other people through each narrator's eyes. Most of the narration is internal and reflective, and even though the girls don't talk all that much, they have a lot to say in their minds. Also, the narrators are all teenagers, which means there's no preachy adult perspective or ponderous lesson to be learned. We just get the story in pretty authentic teen-speak.
Whenever we have first-person narrators, we should always ask ourselves if the narrator is reliable. And in the case of the three girls telling the story, the answer is a pretty definitive "no." None of our female narrators are reliable—instead, they are textbook unreliable narrators.
On one hand, the narrators are fairly accurate about the factual events that occur throughout the day, things like Dominique and Trina passing by one another in the hallway, or Trina getting up to stomp with the Boosters at lunch.
But on the other hand, the interpretations of the events of the day and the internal reflections vary wildly from character to character. Trina thinks that the Boosters want her up with them; Leticia thinks that Trina's imposing herself where she's not wanted. Leticia thinks that her broken nail is the most important thing in the world, more important the impending fight, while it's pretty clear from the teachers' priceless reactions that the nail is pretty unimportant.
Once we realize the characters' unreliability when it comes to their internal conflicts, we as readers are stuck trying to figure out which self-perceptions are accurate. Dominique thinks she doesn't have a temper, but is this true? Trina thinks that she brightens everyone's day, but does she? We end up calling into question some of the core qualities of each character because we're unsure whether they see themselves accurately.
In short, it's pretty safe to trust the events in the novel as they happen, but we'd recommend taking each narrator's perspective with a grain of salt and looking carefully at what other people say around that narrator. And even then, we may not get the whole picture.
Ivan, Trina's partner in art class, narrates one chapter when he visits Trina in the hospital. He is the only visitor we see Trina getting, other than her mom. Ivan serves to bring us up to speed on the plot, and he's also the most genuine narrator of the bunch. We trust him because he has no ulterior motive; he does what he does because it's the right thing to do—there's no other game to this dude. And since he comes near the end, his narration helps us trust our assessment of the story, namely that Trina doesn't deserve her fate.
We're introduced to our three main characters in a few chapters: Trina the artist, Leticia the busybody, and Dominique the basketball star. Dominique's in a foul mood, and Trina gets all up her space in the hallway before school. Behind Trina's back, Dominique announces that she's going to jump Trina to her friends. Leticia sees it all, though she remains unseen by Dominique and Trina.
The three narrators each go about their days, Trina completely oblivious and Leticia torn (as much as she can be—meaning kind of) about what to do. Dominique internally justifies her decision to jump Trina and externally tries to get her minutes on the court back. All this internal conflict makes it to the climax at the end of the day, even though we hope the impending fight is derailed.
Leticia decides not to tell Trina or anyone about the attack during lunch. Before, she could have gone both ways, but after lunch, she's made her decision. She thinks Trina needs to be knocked down a notch or two.
Dominique attacks Trina, and Leticia narrates the attack to Bea over the phone. Trina is taken away in an ambulance, unconscious, and Leticia denies any knowledge of the fight to the assistant principal.
Ivan is in the hospital talking to Trina, who is in a coma. It's a few months after the attack, and he reveals that she needs to have more surgeries and that people have signed a card for her. His narrator's voice ends up filling in some depressing gaps for us readers.
Leticia is watching television and sees Dominique interviewed for a news story about girl-on-girl violence. She calls Bea, and the two watch as Trina, forever damaged, tells her side of the story: She doesn't remember being attacked, and she still has no idea why the attack occurred. Bea has to go, but Leticia thinks that she could have gotten on television, too, since she knew all about the fight. And she "just can't believe it" (35.18). Neither can we, Leticia—we can't believe you either.