Published February 21, 2023
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About Junkyard Dogs
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.
I have some mixed feelings about this book. First, I found the writing super compelling. I could feel my heart beat faster as I read some of the intense scenes about Josh and his desperation to keep his brother out of the foster care system. His fear when he discovers what’s happening to the people on their crew who’ve “disappeared”.
I also found the characters believable. There were some who didn’t get what Josh was going through, and some who figured it out. They didn’t all respond the same way. Even Josh’s grandma, who was cruel and neglectful, also had some pretty deep layers. I liked that depth.
The one thing I struggled with, though has to do with a character Josh describes as having OCD. He does things like avoiding cracks on the sidewalk, repetitive hand motions, and rituals. So that fit some of the stereotypical presentation of OCD. He’s kind of the only character really portrayed as having mental health issues. Some of the directions the story takes align with some stigma about mental health issues. That made me a bit uncomfortable. I found myself wishing that his OCD had been left out of the story or that maybe a different character had those symptoms.
I do really like that the author drew attention to the plight of homeless children and teens in the United States. There’s also an author’s note that explains that there are more than one million kids in the US who are homeless. More than any other industrialized nation in the world, according to the author’s note.
If you want to learn more about homelessness and how to find ways to help in your community, I recommend SHELTER: HOMELESSNESS IN OUR COMMUNITY by Lois Peterson.
Content Notes for Junkyard Dogs
Recommended for Ages 14 up.
Very few physical descriptions. I’m not sure what race the characters are.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used pretty frequently.
A kiss between a boy and girl. References to a boy and girl kissing under a blanket.
References to people getting stabbed. An armed man and his crew confront Josh and his friends. Josh discovers the bodies of two men who’ve apparently been murdered. He has some scattered memories of the fire that burned down his house and killed his mom.
Josh’s grandmother and reluctant guardian smokes pot and drinks alcohol.
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