Friday, April 25, 2008

When Jeff Comes Home, by Catherine Atkins

Atkins, Catherine (1999). When Jeff Comes Home. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons.

Summary and Evaluation: Two and a half years after Jeff is kidnapped, Ray, the kidnapper, returns him to his family. Embarrassed, scared, and unable to cope, Jeff refuses to tell his family, friends, or investigators what really happened to him. As time goes on, Jeff's father tries to help him reenter normal teenage life, but Jeff's secrets and public speculation keep him from being able to adjust to his new life.

I put off reading this book for a long time knowing that it was a difficult topic; now I can't stop thinking about it. The choppiness of the paragraphs and the unrealistic dialog made the writing unremarkable, but the handling of a subject most people prefer not to think about made it disturbing and memorable. Jeff, the narrator, gave enough details so the reader could understand, but was careful to reveal himself. Especially profound was Jeff's relationship with Ray - fear, disgust, and some acceptance all blended together. Until the end he only, admits that to the reader. But even at the end, Jeff has barely begun to heal. Rarely does a book leave me wondering about what I would do in a similar situation. What kind of assumptions would I make? How would I act around him? Would I ask the same insolent questions? Would I be relieved when he lied to me? This is not one of those books that I would say I enjoyed. Indeed, I would much rather read Gossip Girl. Although I have not yet read any commentary on the novel, my guess is that Atkins did not intend this book to be entertainment.

Booktalk Hook: If I were to booktalk this, I would read from the prologue of the book telling of how Ray took Jeff until Jeff realized that he had blood on his throat. After that i would tell a little about Jeff's return and his struggle to come to terms with what happened.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That's really the big question with WJCH: can this novel be read as entertainment? Amy P.