Davy lives with his alcoholic, stingy, abusive father. On one occasion, Davy accidentally “jumps” (teleports) away just as his father is about to beat him with a belt buckle. Seizing the opportunity, Davy runs away from home but finds himself accosted by a quartet of truck drivers. Luckily, he teleports away again. Realizing he has a strange and unbelievable talent, Davy decides to make his way in the world alone. Once in New York City, Davy finds that his age (seventeen years old) doesn’t allow him to register for school or work without a parent or papers. In desperation, Davy plans a bank heist that can only be accomplished with his unique ability.
After walking away with a sizable sum of money, Davy lives the high life: living out of hotels, buying expensive clothes and eating at expensive restaurants. Despite having nearly everything he needs only a “jump” away, he discovers that he can only teleport to places he has been to before and can clearly picture in his mind. Backed by his bank heist money, he travels extensively in order to accumulate a large number of teleportation sites. Eventually, Davy puts his ability to use in stopping airline hijackers, but this catches the attention of the NSA, which seeks to understand Davy’s ability and use him for their own purposes.
Despite the intriguing concept behind Steven Gould’s Jumper, the novel doesn’t offer much of a conflict for its protagonist until more than halfway through. While it is intriguing to follow Davy and see how he utilizes his ability, the plot is mostly just watching him figure things out. Much of the novel feels like a thought exercise in the best way to utilize such an ability to benefit oneself or others (within the confines of the mechanics of teleportation that Gould has established). It appears the drastic changes made to the movie adaptation was to create a conflict and a plot, which the book is lacking. Jumper is clearly aimed at a young adult audience, as Davy’s angst may come across as childish or simply corny to older readers. Gould’s description of New York City, and specifically Times Square, comes across as dated (the area hasn’t been that way in over a decade and a half!).
Despite the plain writing style and the sometimes annoying angst of Davy, the book was still interesting enough to keep me reading almost non-stop until I was finished. I guess it was after finishing the book that I realized that I wish more had happened. Make sure to check out Reflex, the sequel to Jumper, for a more action-packed (and better-plotted) story with Davy and teleportation. If anything, a movie should have been made from Reflex, with Jumper only serving as an introduction to the better story.