Following a “rotten bad year,” Jett is sent to live with his grandmother in this novel in verse from the author of The Agony of Bun O’Keefe (2017).
Commencing with the almost-12-years-old’s arrival at Grandma’s “little wooden house / on a rocky eastern shore,” the sequence of events unfolds in flashbacks over the course of the narrative. The bad year begins when Jett’s father is incarcerated for a drunken driving accident that left four dead and Jett’s mother moves him to the mainland for a “fresh start.” It’s here where he befriends school bully Junior and subsequently turns into a mean boy himself. Junior, who is poor and lives with his abusive father in a shed behind his aunt’s house, enlists Jett’s help robbing his intellectually disabled middle-aged uncle Alf of the money he keeps in a briefcase under his bed. When Junior discovers the money is merely Monopoly cash, he assaults Alf. The theft and its aftermath are what land Jett at his grandmother’s house for a “change of scenery.” Jett’s first-person narrative is permeated by an intense sense of melancholy and regret, but during his summer with compassionate Grandma Jo, Jett learns to forgive and to take responsibility for his actions and finds hope for redemption. Short lines and deliberate breaks compress the emotion, increasing its power. The book assumes the white default.
Heartbreaking—but uplifting. (Fiction. 8-13)