Friday, May 14, 2010

When Jeff Comes Home by Catherine Atkins

One of the most riveting YA novels ever written, When Jeff Comes Home begins as 16-year-old Jeff is dropped off in his old neighborhood. When the door to his home opens, it is the first time that his family had seen him for years. When he was 13, Jeff was abducted from a rest stop by a man named Ray, who had held him captive and shut off from the world. Thus begins his painful reentry into everyday life, with the man who abducted and enslaved him still lurking around, and Jeff absolutely refusing to describe what has happened to him.

Based on the true story of Steven Stayner, a boy who was abducted in the 1970s and then escaped years later, When Jeff Comes Home is a wonderfully written novel about the psychology of a victim who is too ashamed to accuse his attacker. Though seemingly sensationalistic in its topic, writer Atkins creates a true-to-life, meticulously detailed story about serious trauma and its aftermath.

Always wondered why we had three copies of this one in my library. The cover image was immediately disturbing. Now I know why we had so many -- a fantastic read.

Bibliotherapeutic value: As painful as it is, this story underscores the importance of safety net for victims of abuse. The final revelation is a psychic punch to the gut -- and a reminder of how the mind can twist a traumatic situation around to hurt a victim again and again. 

Atkins, Catherine. When Jeff Comes Home. New York: Putnam, 1999.

ISBN: 0-399-23366-0. $17.99.

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