When Jeff Comes Home – Catherine Atkins

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The book in one sentence: 16-year-old Jeff returns home after being kidnapped and made to be his captor’s boy lover for 3 years, but his fears and doubt of his own sexuality threatens his identity and ability to re-enter the life he used to know.

Who would you recommend it to: Everybody, because this is one darn good read.

Best bit: The ending. It’s terribly sad and touching and powerful all at once.

Boring bits: None.

Most touching bit:

“I’m not looking for your sympathy. I know none of that was enough. I didn’t find you, and that’s the bottom line. You had to save yourself.”

I looked up at him, wondering if I’d heard him correctly. “What?”?

“I couldn’t do it for you,”? Dad said, “so you saved yourself.”

The idea was so radical I could only stare at him. “Save myself? What? I didn’t save myself. I’m screwed up, Dad. Screwed up and screwed over,”? I added deliberately.

He didn’t flinch. “You’re alive. You convinced Slaight to bring you home. You won.”

“You know how I convinced him, don’t you? You’ve known it all along.”? I looked away. “I don’t see how you can know that and not hate me for it, even a little.”?

“Jeff.”? He waited until I met his eyes. “The things Slaight did to you, the fact that he used you sexually…? Dad hit the words hard, ?I hate him for it, of course. Not you. Never you.”

“But I was there too, Dad.” I took a deep breath. “Anyway, it wasn’t just the sex. Ray… loved me, I think. He told me so and I built on that. He was kinder to me then, so I… that’s how I fought him. I convinced Ray that I loved him. I kissed him back, Dad. Do you get it? I kissed him back.”

“I get it,”? Dad said roughly. “And I’m telling you, good. If that worked, good.”?

“You don’t know the details. You don’t know how I was with him. You don’t know everything I did.”?

Dad shook his head slightly. “There is nothing you can tell me, nothing I can find out, that will ever make me turn away from you.”

“Is that true?”? I asked after a moment.

“Yes,”? he said simply.

I closed my eyes, trying to absorb what he was offering. Unconditional love. Unconditional acceptance.

Verdict: You have got to read this book. It is one of the best young adult novels I’ve ever read thus far.

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