Friday, October 18, 2013

Juvie by Steve Watkins

Title: Juvie
Author: Steve Watkins
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Release Date: October 8, 2013
Source: ARC from publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository
Heart-wrenching and real, Juvie tells the story of two sisters grappling with accountability, sacrifice--and who will be there to help you after you take the fall.

Sade Windas has always been the responsible one--she's the start player on her AAU basketball team, she gets good grades, she dates a cute soccer player, and she tries to help out at home. Not like her older sister, Carla, who leaves her three-year-old daughter, Lulu, with Aunt Sadie while she parties and gets high. But when both sisters are caught up in a drug deal--wrong place, wrong time--it falls to Sadie to confess to a crime she didn't commit to keep Carla out of jail and Lulu out of foster care. Sadie is supposed to get off with a slap on the wrist, but somehow, impossibly, gets sentenced to six months in juvie. As life as Sadie knew it disappears beyond the stark bars of her cell, her anger--at her ex-boyfriend, at Carla, at herself--fills the empty space left behind. Can Sadie forgive Carla for getting her mixed up in this mess? Can Carla straighten herself out to make a better life for Lulu, and for all of them? Can Sadie survive her time in juvie with her spirit intact?

When I first heard about Juvie by Steve Watkins it just sounded like an intriguing story that was grittier than what I would normally choose to read. As much as I love my broken characters, there's usually romance and a happy ending involved. With Juvie, it was different but the good kind of different. 

Sadie has always been the good sister. Unlike her older sister Carla, Sadie didn't start using drugs and get pregnant at seventeen. Instead, Sadie tries to hold her family together, spending as much time as she can with her niece Lulu and helping out wherever possible. But when babysitting Carla at a party gets the two sisters caught up in a drug deal, Sadie isn't sure how she can fix this problem. Taking the fall for Carla lands Sadie in juvie for six months. Will Sadie survive juvie? And more importantly will this scare Carla into getting her act together, if only for Lulu's sake?

Typically, I love my contemporary stories filled with romance, something there was pretty much none of in Steve Watkins' Juvie. But that's okay. I knew going in that Juvie would be different from what I normally read but I wanted it to be different. This story was a little darker and grittier--as you would expect from a story that takes place in juvie. What I liked about the story is that there were sort of two timelines. Every other chapter was about Sadie's first few months in juvie, while the rest of the chapters showed Sadie's life from starting from the party where everything went wrong until the day before she goes to juvie. Having the story told that way allowed me to get a better sense of why Sadie made the decision she did when she chose to take the fall for her sister. Because, ultimately, that's what the story was about: the bond between two sisters. 

The story was very much about the bond between Sadie and Carla. Though that bond appeared to be very strained, it's still there. Sadie is the kind of person who would do whatever she can to help her family, and I respected her for that. Granted the person she was doing this for didn't really seem to appreciate it at first. If I'm being completely honest, Carla didn't really have many redeeming qualities when I first met her. But I was happy to see her pick up the pieces of her life, even if it took one major kick in the butt to do so. More than that though, it was nice to see Sadie accept who her sister was as the story went on. Sure, she was giving her grief and pushing her to get her act together, but she eventually accepted her. Though, really, Lulu is the one who totally stole the show. 

Juvie by Steve Watkins was different. The kind of different I really enjoy and makes me want to recommend a book to others. If you are looking for a book that deals with a grittier subject matter and shows how strong family bonds can be, then Juvie is the book for you.

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