Monday, January 23, 2023

Today's read... Junkyard Dogs by Katherine Higgs Coulthard

This month seems to be digging deeper into the serious read direction, and today's book falls right into this category. It's said to hit themes such as poverty, homelessness, and starvation, while building up a criminal scene. While it feels weird to say that I'm excited to dive in (due to the themes), I am looking forward to seeing where this read goes.

by Katherine Higgs-Coulthard
Peachtree Teen
YA Contemporary
336 pages

FEBRUARY 21st!!!

Some people dream of happily ever after, but all 17-year-old Josh Roberts wants is a roof over his head and for his little brother to be safe.

Josh's father has gone missing without a trace. Now Josh and his 9-year-old brother, Twig, are stuck living with Gran in her trailer. Problem is, Gran didn't ask to take care of any kids, and she's threatening to call social services unless Josh can find his dad. After paying off Gran to take in his little brother, Josh risks truancy and getting kicked off his basketball team to take to the streets and hunt for his dad. But when Josh digs too deep, he suddenly finds himself tethered to a criminal scrapping ring that his father was accomplice to. If Josh wants to keep Twig out of the system and return to some sense of normal, he'll have to track his dad down and demand honest answers.

GOODREADS    /   B&N    /    INDIEBOUND    /    AMAZON


Heart-wrenching and suspenseful, this read lays the harsh struggles of a teen, who just wants to gain a half-stabile life for his younger brother, bare while entering a tough world of violence, thieves, and fight to stay alive.

When seventeen-year-old Josh's father disappears, life's fragile balance tips. His grandmother doesn't want to care for him or his brother and threatens to turn them over to the social services if Josh doesn't figure out how to pay their half of her trailer's rent. Josh has a shot at a basketball scholarship and needs to keep, at least, school running if he ever has hopes of finally changing his and his little brother's life around. But he needs to know where their father went, especially since his mother has already passed away. The search, though, leads him to his father's friend, who doesn't have Josh's best interests in mind. Instead, Josh is lured into a world of thieves...and those who argue disappear.

There are some trigger-warnings for this read: murder, child abuse, foul language, violence, drugs, winks at prostitution, knife/gun threats and a few more. So, sensitive readers will need to know this.

Josh is determined to improve life, although he has no clue how outside of the hopes of pulling off a basketball scholarship. He has a real chance at making it, but life outside of school has dealt him a more than difficult hand. His grandmother's compete lack of care and selfishness breaks the heart, especially with Josh's younger brother caught up in the mess. While, at least, she feeds his younger brother, Josh is left to starve without his father's even little income. And when the Grandmother then demands Josh pay rent despite the father's disappearance, it's hard not to feel for him. 

Thanks to the death of his mother not long before, Josh hangs on his father that much more, which also means that he's more concerned with finding him than figuring a way to iron the rest of life out. This psychological end also comes into play as Josh refuses to see openings for help around him and shows mistrust at every turn. The author draws the reader into Josh's head, allowing them to sympathize with his decisions and experience how difficult it is for him to think through everything. Considering how dark the world is that he sinks into, it's more than understandable.

While the tale makes the reader wish Josh and Twig would finally get a break the entire time, the author also builds in a violent world. As those around Josh disappear, it becomes clear that he's stepped into a dangerous area. The idea of trust becomes even more blurred, and not only isn't it obvious how Josh can escape any of it without endangering the little he still has, but the threat to his own life grows. 

It's well-woven in a way, which hits the gut and heart. There were a few moments, where I found myself skimming over paragraphs, but all in all, it's a grabbing read which leaves a mark.


Ms. Yingling said...

Sounds like a bit much for middle school, although my readers are always asking for murder mysteries. Looks like a good read, though. Have a great week!

Natalie Aguirre said...

This sounds like a heart-wrenching story. I'm glad you enjoyed it so much.

Tonja Drecker said...

Ms. Yingling- After reading the first pages, it was already clear this isn't a middle grade read. And interesting that the mg wants murder mysteries, when the pub. world tells writers that they should be careful about dead bodies in that genre.

Natalie - The suspense kept it from dragging down too much, but I'm going to need a happy read after this one!

Kat Higgs-Coulthard said...

Thanks so much for this thoughtful review of my book! Junkyard Dogs is definitely YA--a lot of the themes are pretty mature for MG.