Jump Cut (2012), by Ted Staunton

Jump Cut is one of the Seven series, which advertises itself as “The Seven Series: 7 grandsons; 7 journeys; 7 amazing authors; 1 amazing series. Read one: Read them all.” The website listed as “www.sevenseries.com” is wrong; when I began this review, it took me to a site that seemed to be the setup for a movie version of the books; now it takes one to “www.sevenseriestv.com,” which seems to be a Nigerian film site… very odd. Regardless, the official website is here.

I was sent an Advanced Reading Copy (ARC) of one of the other novels, Devil’s Pass, by Sigmund Brouwer, by Resource Links online magazine in the summer, and loved it. I was thus really excited when my daughter brought three others home as soon as they came out in October (her school librarian is really on top of things).  I had been advised by another children’s literature scholar whom I respect that the series is “very uneven,” but I of course wanted to read them all myself, regardless. My friend didn’t mention Staunton’s, so I did dive into it unprejudiced by other’s opinions. I was not, however, as thrilled with it as with Devil’s Pass.

The premise of the series is that David McLean dies, leaving seven grandsons of five daughters all bereft, for, from all accounts, McLean was am amazing man and a fabulous grandpa. In his will, he leaves each of his grandson’s with a task that will send them on some sort of adventure. Early in each story (I surmise… certainly in the two I have read), we glean that each of the adventures was specifically chosen not only to satisfy some emotional, historical need of the grandfather, but to help each grandson grow into manhood through life lessons that he would not otherwise have access to. The set up is not only clever, but carefully and artfully constructed so that it works both narratively and emotionally: we really like what David McLean has done for his grandsons, and our appreciation reflects also their love for their grandfather and thus their willingness to do seemingly odd things to achieve the goals he sets out for them. In Devil’s Pass, Webb ends up trekking in the northern wastes, a adventure replete with red-neck bullying and the requisite grizzly bear—still, it does not sink as far into stereotype as this sounds; in Jump Cut, budding cameraman Spencer’s task is to film himself kissing the cheek of an old Hollywood flame, “Gloria Lorraine,” his grandfather’s youthful heartthrob. The story is, of course, far more complex than this, and Spencer learns the truth along with the reader. He also learns some lessons about what constitutes worthy content in both film and reality, a lesson I would have thought he had a better handle on at the outset. This is perhaps the greatest failing of the novel: Spencer misses so many filmic opportunities. I would have though that a keen teenaged boy with a new video camera would be more interested in actually shooting footage, in fact the trope is of course how annoying a newbie with a camera can be… Spencer consistently misses shots that are not only interesting, but essential to the task he has set himself—of Gloria has set him—on: filming her journey back to her roots. It becomes annoying. The behaviour, too, of the “kidnapped” gang member seems less authentic than the social threats expressed so effectively in Devil’s Pass: Jump Cut reads like a fiction—fun, interesting, but no actually something that might ever happen this way. Still, it was interesting enough for me to want to read Richard Scrimger’s Ink Me, the story of Spencer’s younger brother, “Bunny,” whose seemingly simple assignment is to get a tattoo…

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