Something I’ve noticed over the years is how often people describe reading’s addictive qualities. more than once, it’s caught my attention when someone is recommending books, selling their most recent read in terms of how it consumed them while reading. This is an experience I’ve had often, and I look forward to finding those deeply addictive titles within my to be read list. John Hornor Jacobs’ newest book, The Twelve-Fingered Boy, was an explosive way to kick off my reading in 2012. I have not read either of Jacob’s previous books (I intend to remedy that with haste), and didn’t know what to expect, which probably allowed this one to sneak up on me, but once I began it, I was desperately hooked.
In the Casimir Pulaski Juvenile Detention Center for Boys, Shreveport Justice Cannon (Shreve to most everyone), has carved a neat little niche for himself among the population, supplying contraband candy and keeping himself safe with a quick wit and clever tongue. He’s selected by the warden to bunk with a new kid, Jack Graves, who has six fingers on each hands and something very dark buried deep inside. After a mysterious, sinister man shows up with an unnatural interest in Jack, Shreve takes matters into his own hands, doing what he can to protect the strange, damaged boy with whom he’s becoming friends. Amid confusion, they escape, and while on the run Jacobs deftly shifts the gear higher. Shreve is left an unexpected gift by Quincrux, the oily villain, and this gives the boys both the means to survive on their own and the tripwire that puts their freedom at risk.
Fast, fierce, and intense, Jacobs creates two vivid, wounded characters you’re pulling for throughout. Shreve is a particularly impressive creation. Years of coping with an alcoholic mother have honed him into a sharp blade, desperate to survive and equally eager to protect those he cares about, yet also hating the ruthless side he’s developed. You root for him throughout, and want him to find a way past the anger that fuels him. Jack is the quieter of the two, carrying guilt that walls him off from everyone, until Shreve begins to find the cracks in those walls.
There are dark mysteries in this book, the first in a trilogy. It’s wickedly entertaining, and deserves to truly take off in a big way this year. I don’t want to go into too many of the details here; I could really gush about it, but I read it without knowing what I was getting into and it blew me away. I’d like you to have that experience. Buy this book, by lots of copies. Do whatever you can to keep Jacobs writing these.