A boy newly arrived to the United States is locked in an outdoor kennel by his abusive adoptive father in this thriller.
JC and the family dog, Boy, are banished together to the enclosure for an untold offense against the violent, temperamental husband of JC’s kind, loving adoptive mother. Melanie is missing, and JC desperately hopes for her return, expressed in short, stream-of-consciousness–style musings addressed to Boy as together they endure hunger and exposure to the elements at the hands of their keeper. Interspersed are explanatory chapters written in more traditional form about JC’s harrowing back story—his abduction from his home to an orphanage, the earthquake that wreaked havoc on his home country, and his introduction to Melanie, an American doctor who eventually brings him into the U.S. with a false passport. All of the main characters are black: JC is Haitian, Melanie is Haitian-American, and her husband is described as having brown skin. Though some attempt is made to explain the motivations for the man’s behavior, his role as villain feels one-dimensional. While readers will be moved by JC’s tragic story, his internal monologues seem to go on too long, finally capped off with an overly neat conclusion.
A tension-filled and provocative premise commands readers’ attention even if it ultimately misses the mark. (Fiction. 13-18)