First in a trilogy
By John Hornor Jacobs
Available now from Carolrhoda LAB (Lerner)
I have got to stop assuming that books are standalones. When I reached the end of THE TWELVE-FINGERED BOY, I couldn't believe it. I was relieved to learn that two more books were coming and that the story would continue, but all the open threads were a bit of a shock.
The twelve-fingered boy in question is Jack Graves, the new kid as Casimir Pulaski Juvenile Detention Center. The narrator is his roommate Shreveport "Shreve" Cannon, the biggest candy dealer in all four blocks. Soon after Jack arrives, a man named Mr. Quincrux shows up to interview him. Shreve eavesdrops because he has a bad feeling about the man and his interest in Jack - a feeling that turns out to be very prescient. Soon the two boys are busting out of juvie and desperately running across the country to protect themselves.
THE TWELVE-FINGERED BOY will appeal to fans of the X-Men and Spider-man. Jack has special abilities, and their encounters with Mr. Quincrux awaken a power in Shreve. Although they're concerned with keeping themselves alive and safe at first, they start to realize that they might have extra responsibilities due to their extraordinary capabilities. That's not a thought that comes easily to Shreve, whose short life has taught him that it is acceptable to hurt others to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.
John Hornor Jacobs imbues Shreve with a unique, absorbing voice. His morality is slightly skewed, and he has the potential to grow up to be a good person - or a really bad one. And his relationship with Jack, who reminds him of his younger brother, is quite sweet. Their journey across America is harrowing, not just because of who is chasing them and what they might run into, but because the corner they're backed into might turn them into what they're running from.
I'm not enamored with the ending of THE TWELVE-FINGERED BOY. While Shreve and Jack to manage to accomplish something important, because the ending made the entire novel seem somewhat pointless. I'm certainly curious about what will happen next, and at least next time I'll know that the end isn't really the end.