Bohls, Steven Jed and the Junkyard War, 298 pages. Disney Hyperion, 2016. $16.99. Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG-13.
12-year old Jed wakes up on his birthday to discover his parents have disappeared, leaving him nothing but a cryptic note, a backpack full of water bottles and batteries, and directions to follow a tunnel at the back of their kitchen dishwasher. At the end of the tunnel, Jed finds himself in a totally new world—a world in a massive junkyard at war where everyone lives above ground on floating cities or boats. Picked up by the enigmatic Captain Bog and his crew after his grandfather does not show up, Jed joins up with these rust pirates in hopes of finding his family. The twist comes when Jed finally discovers where his grandfather is—with the terrifying Dreads who are more machine than man. When he does finally meet up with his Grandfather, Jed is horrified to learn the truth about his family and about himself. But the choice of what to do with that information is still up to him.
I think this book will be immensely popular with young adult readers as it introduces a totally new and unique world with interesting characters. I enjoyed learning the “rules” of this junkyard world right along with Jed and the twists and turns were always unexpected. The main problem I had with this book was its age-level. Jed is supposed to be 12, but his words and actions, as well as the violence that commences in the second half of the novel, would make age 16 far more appropriate. The language is 100% clean but the violence that is discussed and often seen (point blank shootings, killings, torture, abuse, etc) is not something I find wholly appropriate to a younger middle school reader. As such, I think it is more appropriate to a high school audience but will still be appreciated by middle and high school readers across the board.
MS—OPTIONAL, HS—ADVISABLE. Reviewer: TC