One brother home from war. The other desperate to save him. A gripping journey together to the river’s end.
Shane has always worshiped his big brother, Jeremy. But three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan have taken their toll, and the easy-go-lucky brother Shane knew has been replaced by a surly drunk who carries his loaded 9mm with him everywhere and lives in the basement because he can’t face life with his wife and two small children. When Jeremy shows up after Shane’s football game and offers to take him to the family cabin overnight, Shane goes along — both to get away from a humiliation on the field and to keep an eye on Jeremy, who’s AWOL from his job at Quantico and seems to have a shorter fuse than ever. But as the camping trip turns into a days-long canoe trip down the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers, Shane realizes he’s in way over his head — and has no idea how to persuade Jeremy to return home and get the help he needs before it’s too late. In a novel at once gripping and heartbreaking, Steve Watkins offers a stark exploration of the unseen injuries left by war.
Watkins’ latest (Juvie, 2013, etc.) rings with the truth of the plight of veterans who’ve struggled to return to their daily lives after having witnessed what no doubt is sheer horror. Shane’s present-tense narration is fast-paced, full of blunt, uncompromising, sometimes-shocking cruelty. Readers can’t help noticing how Watkins plays Shane’s football prowess against Jeremy’s war stories. Both are battered warriors making sense of what they’ve been taught to do. A gripping, moving, disturbing tale of homecoming. —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Watkins’ treatment of the troubled Jeremy is unsparingly honest yet deeply compassionate, and his fastpaced, suspenseful story is a searing indictment of war and its impact on those who are trying to do a job in the face of unforgiving tragedy. —Booklist Online
Watkins (Juvie) delivers a powerful, emotionally raw tale, heartbreaking in its portrayal of damaged veterans, the price some pay to serve, and the toll it takes on their friends and family. —Publishers Weekly
This stirring untold story sheds light on issues that those in the military face. The gritty language underlies the young men’s continuous struggles. Watkins portrays family life with a returning veteran with PTSD in a way that will appeal to reluctant readers, especially those who like war or adventure stories. —School Library Journal