A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Readers will find this book gripping and hard to put down. Parents may want to use some of the questions in our "Families Can Talk About" section to help teen readers delve a little deeper into the book's content.
This book shows how a kidnapping impacts not only the victim, but also his family. It does end on a hopeful note.
Positive Role Models
Jeff's behavior is erratic and disturbing, though for good reason. He will help readers understand the difficulties of dealing with abuse, and how much healing needs to happen.
Violence & Scariness
Jeff is kidnapped at knifepoint. He is whipped and forced to perform sexual acts to get food and stay safe, none of which is described in detail (When Ray makes Jeff take off his wet clothes, Ray has a "bulge" in his pants. Nude photos of Jeff are found.)
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Occasional use of four-letter expletives, and various epithets for homosexual.
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Products & Purchases
Several products mentioned by name.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Some teen drinking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this book is less about the kidnapping and molestation than about the emotional aftermath. Though not graphic and done as tastefully as possible given the subject matter, it's still very powerful and disturbing. It does end on a hopeful note, and will certainly help teen readers understand the impact of abuse, and how long and complicated the healing process can be.
Is It Any Good?
Few stories about kidnapped teens deal with molestation of the victim and its aftermath, especially not in a novel for teens; Atkins treats the more lurid aspects delicately and carefully. She reserves the hard-hitting realism for Jeff's emotional state after his return, which she handles without a misstep or false moment, though the absence of a therapist seems odd. The major characters are three-dimensional, each with failings to match his strength and patience.
But it is Jeff whose feelings ring truest. The most powerful moment in the story is early, when his little brother Brian nags him into playing a game, and Jeff resurrects a nasty version of Staredown that Ray would force him to play. As Jeff sits on the sofa, filled with self-loathing, the horror and empathy his siblings feel over what he has endured is shown clearly when a shaken and tearful Brian immediately apologizes for making him remember it. Moments like that make this book hard to put down -- and hard to forget.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.