By Steven Gould
Publisher: Tor Books
Publication Date: January 15, 2013
Genre: Young Adult Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Cent has a secret. She lives in isolation, with her parents, hiding from the people who took her father captive and tortured him to gain control over his ability to teleport, and from the government agencies who want to use his talent. Cent has seen the world, but only from the safety of her parents’ arms. She’s teleported more than anyone on Earth, except for her mother and father, but she’s never been able to do it herself. Her life has never been in danger.
Until the day when she went snowboarding without permission and triggered an avalanche. When the snow and ice thundered down on her, she suddenly found herself in her own bedroom. That was the first time.
Normally I’ll start whining when the books in a series slow down to a year or more between publication dates, so it’s inconceivable to me that it’s taken twenty years for Gould to write all three main Jumper books (and it’s been seven years since Reflex). Impulse is less conspiracy-theory than the first two books while being more specifically friendly for today’s YA market. This can definitely be read even if you haven’t picked up the first two, just…before you start reading, purge that awful movie with Hayden Christensen from your mind, okay?
Remember the way the beach smelled the last time you were there on vacation? Now imagine holding on to that scent and place in your head and then you’re there. That’s jumping for Davy and Millie and they’ve been doing it a long time. At one time, Davy had been captured and experimented on, so he and Millie are fanatical about personal safety, living self-sufficiently in the Yukon. They’ve become more vigilant now that they have a daughter, but as Cent gets older, she resents their isolation. She’s only with other people when Davy or Millie jumps her with them, usually on one of their humanitarian missions. She wants to go to school, they want to control her and it looks like they’re going to get their way until Cent spontaneously learns to jump on her own. Hello, high school, carefully picked by an obsessively overprotective Davy, who also institutes a lot of rules.
Cent’s foray into high school isn’t exactly what she expects. She’s brilliant but socially inept and manages to make a dangerous enemy. With her tendency to protect the less fortunate, Cent makes the situation with the bully worse and soon she’s using her jumping abilities several times a day at school. Knowing how her dad flips out over any risk to their security, I would have assumed Cent would know too; I know part of her deal was that she needed to get out from under his thumb, but she seemed to be a good kid and I wondered if she’d really ignore her dad that much.
As I said earlier, Cent seems tailored to current YA readers. She’s snarky and brilliant, independent and fearless. Her ability to jump with her mom was an ingenious way to show off the liberal political side of the entire family, and Millie and Cent as feminists and humanists. If she weren’t so hilarious and nerd-girl cool, I’d have started worrying that Cent was a Mary Sue because of how perfect she was but she had enough flaws that I was okay with all of the epic greatness. If I was overwhelmed at all by the family, it was easy enough to think of them as superheroes, which may or may not have been a bad thing, depending on how you like your sci-fi.
I think if you’ve read the first two books, you might be thinking that Cent was ridiculously stupid taking the risks with jumping she did. Of course you also may think that it’s time to get over that old conspiracy plot and move on to something new too. Impulse straddles that line, mostly. This is Cent’s story, so Cent’s problem at school and Cent’s figuring out her jumping abilities are top priority. Davy and Millie are still in the picture though and they’ve always got someone looking for them. I wasn’t too impressed with that part of things, but I suppose it needed to be included to tie all of the books together.
I went into Impulse with modest expectations because it’s been years since I’d even picked up a Jumper book and sci-fi has stopped really being a genre I read. To say I was pleasantly surprised is an understatement. This is so much more: social commentary, a little romance, a lot of suspense, way too much math for my poor brain and some seriously funny dialogue. I really don’t have any idea if Gould has more books planned for the series, but I’d love to read more about Cent and what she’s up to. Please though, I don’t know if I can wait seven years or more.
My Rating: A