Jamie is eleven years old and his family is going through a difficult time. His father has left his mother for another woman. His aunt Sapphy has had an accident that caused her to be unable to store new memories, so Jamie and his mother move to Traverse City to live with her and look after her. His mother is working long hours and he doesn't get to see her much. He is getting picked on at school and he does not participate in class. What's more, Jamie is harboring a secret that he won't tell anyone else, and he wants to just forget it.
The sadness of Sapphy's condition comes out as she is able to recall the past before her accident, but is surprised by everything new. A nurse Marge comes in to look after Sapphy every day, but Sapphy never recognizes Marge. Sapphy is like a scratched record that keeps on repeating the same line, and Jamie wants to help his aunt "jump the scratch" and carry on with her life.
One of Jamie's neighbors is a girl in his class called Audrey. She is smart like him, and slowly they become friends. She says she can hypnotize people, and he wonders whether she can help him with forgetting his secret. However, thinking about what happened to him just makes him want to tell someone else about it.
Jumping the Scratch is a dark story; Jamie's family has so many problems it seems he has no hope. Sarah Weeks, who has written several books for children, does not dwell on the sexual abuse that Jamie suffered, but still the book is emotionally demanding. Some young readers be overwhelmed by the emphasis on the endless trials faced by Jamie, but others may identify with him and be cheered by the positive tone of the book's ending. The plot is not very realistic -- Sapphy's memory disorder and her recovery from it seem particularly odd, and a plot element involving a fiction writer who visits Jamie's school is implausible and idealizes authors. However, that probably will not bother young readers, and the emotional core of the story is more important. The theme of surviving misfortune and family turmoil is an important and perennial one, and some readers may find the book helpful.
© 2007 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.
Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Reviews. His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.