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When Jeff Comes Home Paperback – December 31, 2001

39 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Kidnapped from a roadside rest stop by a man named Ray, 16-year-old Jeff has spent the past two and a half years locked in a dark basement. He was whipped, mentally abused and forced to have sex with his captor if he wanted to eat. Now his kidnapper has brought Jeff home. The first half of this tautly written debut reads like a thriller: Jeff, the narrator, relates his gruesome history in bits and pieces; initially, he's wrapped up in twisted loyalty to Ray, who begins to stalk his family. The author builds the tension to an almost unbearable peak in scene after scene, such as when Ray leaves the clothes in which the teen was kidnapped on Jeff's front steps or when RayAstill anonymousAchats with Jeff's father in public while the threatened teen chooses not identify him. Jeff is in deep denial about his repeated rape; looking at mug shots and rap sheets for the FBI, he cries out, "Why is every man in there some kind of sick rapist pervert?... I told you Ray isn't like that." About halfway through the novel, Ray is caught, and the breakdown of Jeff's denial makes up the rest of the book. Jeff's recovery is sensitively and dramatically handled, but the tension eases up as he no longer seems threatened and as the mystery of what really happened to him is revealed to match everyone's initial assumptions. Although it doesn't quite deliver on its promise of suspense the whole way through, this chilling story will put readers through an emotional wringer. Ages 12-up. (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Grade 10 Up-Abducted from a California rest stop and abused-physically, emotionally, and sexually-by his kidnapper for 2 U years, Jeff, now 16, is finally released and allowed to return home. Once a star athlete and quintessential "good kid," he is reunited with a family and friends who have become strangers and is caught in a maelstrom of emotions he tries desperately to suppress and deny. Once the apple of his father's eye, Jeff now has a strained relationship with him. His siblings are eager to reconnect, but treat him with a mandated fragility. Consumed with self-loathing, feeling ashamed and unclean, Jeff refuses to cooperate with investigators and name his abductor. The denial comes to haunt him when his kidnapper asserts that their relations were consensual, thus destroying the tentative trust Jeff had rebuilt with an old friend and making his return to school a nightmare of persecution. This is a strong, uncompromising first novel. Jeff's awkwardness and raw pain at having his outlook on life forever altered are drawn with a remarkable sensitivity and honesty. Supporting characters are equally well realized, with each individual differently, yet relatedly affected by the teen's abduction. There can be no instant resolution, ironically no return "home," and there is none. Jeff's emotional scars run deeper than the physical ones scored on his back. There is, however, positive motion toward healing. At last, the boy begins to talk, breaking through his denial and expressing his anger. A powerful, difficult, yet cathartic read.
Jennifer A. Fakolt, Denver Public Library
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Puffin (December 31, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0698119150
  • ISBN-13: 978-0698119154
  • Product Dimensions: 4.4 x 0.6 x 7.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,248,859 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Gail Giles on March 7, 2000
Format: Hardcover
WHEN JEFF COMES HOME is the book I wish I could have written. Ms. Atkins brings Jeff, his fear, confusion, his heartbreak and finally his courage to stunning realization in this first person POV. Jeff, kidnapped at thirteen, then released and returned to his family at sixteen doesn't know who he is anymore. Recent criticisms of the book focusing on why the kidnapper releases him have missed the subtleties of the book. Jeff is too old to be of sexual interest to Ray, his kidnapper, but retaining control and continuing to torture him in another way is the second act of Ray's vicious drama. And Jeff doesn't know who to protect. Ray, who did release him, his family, or himself.
The art of this book is in what isn't said. The writer trusts the reader to see through Jeff's mental confusion. The reader desperately wants Jeff to recognize his path to recovery. Easily the best YA I've read this year.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Liz Bass on October 29, 1999
Format: Hardcover
What an achievement this novel is! Not only has Catherine Atkins brought to life an engaging yet enigmatic adolescent named Jeff, but has also created a "ring true" set of characters around him whose lives he affects in deep ways. Abducted and sexually abused for two and a half miserable years, Jeff is finally able to return home. What are his chances of leading a "normal" family and school life after what he has been through? In search of that answer, Ms. Atkins takes us places we would rather not be, but we go anyway. We cannot help but root for Jeff and his family. We want their pain to end. We want justice to prevail. Most of all, we want this terrible chapter in all their lives to close.
This novel is astonishing. It goes to the heart of family life, and tells us that there is as much fear, guilt and sorrow in it as there is joy, fellowship, and forgiveness. Bravo to Ms. Atkins. You are a fine writer, and Jeff is a fine book!
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Meaghan on November 1, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm really interested in kidnappings and have read lots of books about them, both fiction and nonfiction. This I think is one of my favorites. All the characters were very well done, particularly Jeff and Vin. Vin was my favorite character, the way he wouldn't give up, trying to help Jeff even as Jeff pushed him away. What happened to Jeff, the beatings and the molestations, are written about in such a way so that you know it all but not too much -- many writers less talented would turn this story into something like sadomasochistic pornography, but Catherine Atkins is much more subtle than that. Jeff's recovery with all the fits and starts seems realistic to me, and I felt like cheering when he said he was ready to talk though of course it will be years before he ever feels really safe again. A great novel; I look forward to reading future works by this author.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A. Creech on February 15, 2000
Format: Hardcover
If you heard about something like this on the news, or on "America's Most Wanted"--KIDNAPPED TEEN WHO SPENT TWO YEARS AS SEX SLAVE IS HOME-- you'd shed a tear, and think "how wonderful that he was returned home, they must be so happy now", and then you'd go back to your dinner, or your book, or your crossword.
How many of us actually ever think about what happens after the happy ending? Can you imagine going home, and then having to lead a "normal" life, where EVERYONE knows what you went through? It's one thing to be recognized because you want to--actor, musician, politician. It's another thing to be recognized everywhere you go because everyone knows what happened to you. This book makes the reader think about that. This is the book about what happens after the happy ending that we see in the tabloids. And it isn't a comfortable thing to have to think about.
This is an excellent novel, well written, suspenseful and disturbing. I only have two questions--why did Ray return Jeff in the first place? Just because Jeff pretended to love him? It doesn't ring true. And why didn't someone immediately hook Jeff up with a counsellor? Even if he wasn't ready to talk, some effort should have been made to put him in touch with someone qualified to deal with traumatized kids.
Definitely worth reading however.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Stephanie M. Spika, MLS -- on December 30, 1999
Format: Hardcover
As a librarian, I just read and reviewed this book as part of my job. I was glad that I also discussed it with other colleagues, and got teen comments about it as well. The book is very well written, fast to read, realistic, scary, and disturbing -- especially from my vantage point as a mother. Colleagues have already noted that it has been very well received by teens, some of whom have come up to tell us so. This is high praise for a 230-page young adult novel. The story is told in the first person, by Jeff himself, and his pain is so real and so palpable that I can't imagine it having been written any better. The tense mood of the book never lets up; there is very little lightness or humor to give the reader a chance to breathe. This technique would not have been my choice, but I can see that it will keep teen readers going right up to the end. I have only a few slight criticisms about the story: What really compelled Jeff's kidnapper to bring him home? Does this really ever happen? And, why is there no mention of a counselor or therapist for Jeff? If my son had come home so obviously disturbed and in pain, my first phonecall would have been to seek professional help. I don't quite understand that omission in the story. I hope it really isn't standard police operating procedure NOT to include the help of a therapist for an individual like this! -SMS
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