ARC Review: The Twelve-Fingered Boy by John Hornor Jacobs

The Twelve-Fingered Boy by John Hornor Jacobs
Book #1 in the Incarcerado Trilogy
Publication Date: 01 Feb 2013
ARC Provided by Netgalley and Carolrhoda Labs

Synopsis from Goodreads: Fifteen-year-old Shreve Cannon doesn’t mind juvie. He’s got a good business dealing contraband candy, and three meals a day are more than his drunk mother managed to provide.

In juvie, the rules never change and everyone is the same. In juvie, Shreve has life figured out. Then the new fish shows up. Jack’s a quiet kid. Small. Cries himself to sleep too. He’s no standard-issue titty-baby, though. There’s his hands, more specifically his fingers, all twelve of ’em. And when he gets angry, something weird happens. The air wavers. You feel a slight pressure in your chest. And then, well, best take cover.

Jack isn’t the only new face in juvie. There’s Mr. Quincrux. Quincrux has an unusual interest in Jack and Shreve, and it quickly becomes clear that innocent bystanders aren’t going to get in his way.

So Jack and Shreve bust out. On the lam, they quickly discover that Jack has abilities, hell, superpowers that might just give them a fighting chance against Quincrux, if they can stay alive long enough to figure them out.

Christal’s Review – 4 Skulls – B+

The Twelve-Fingered Boy was a very quick read, but it was packed with action and an unexpected amount of heart.  I really enjoyed this little glimpse of Shreve and Jack’s time together and am interested to see where the next book in this trilogy takes us.

This book can basically be split into two parts.  The first half of the book explores Shreve’s world at juvie and how it changes with Jack’s arrival whereas the second half focuses on Shreve and Jack’s time on the run.  The two parts flow together well and the narrative changes never felt jarring.  Throughout both parts, the story is grounded by Shreve’s uniquely defined voice.

Shreve has a pretty good life at juvie.  He has a bed, three square meals, and makes decent cash with his candy-supply racket.  Everything changes when he meets Jack and learns there is more to the twelve-fingered boy than a few extra digits.  It was nice to see the two boys connect and made sense for Jack to originally defer to Shreve.  He was out of his element, lost, and scared.  He hit every emotional button Shreve has by reminding him so much of his younger brother.  It showed another side to Shreve that he would take care of Jack so unselfishly.  The little fast-talker that doesn’t have much self-worth put his life in danger to make sure someone else wasn’t hurt.  It was nice to see that others around him could realize his worth, like Warden Booth, even if Shreve himself was very depreciating.

Once Shreve and Jack escape from juvenile hall, the story really took off and went in directions I wasn’t expecting.  It explored concepts of morality that were surprising for such a short book.  The explanations weren’t super deep, but it was nice to see that they were at least brought up and not just glossed over due to newly discovered superpowers.  Shreve especially has to look at what he is doing and decide if it’s right or wrong or even necessary.  Though Jack is the one that the “shady government agency” is focused on, it’s really Shreve that makes the hard choices and decides what he can and cannot live with doing in order to protect himself and Jack.  Some of the decisions Shreve makes force Jack to grow up and stand on his own a little more and I think it was a good thing for his character development.

I couldn’t really see the story ending differently than it actually did, but I am still sad at the turn of events.  Though it appears on the surface at least that both boys are doing well, I am still worried for both of them.  Even though this is Shreve’s story and he was the more compelling of the two boys, I am most interested in finding out if Jack is really okay and how his life is now.  I’m more confident that Shreve can take care of himself and will come out stronger in the end.

This was a very compelling start to a new YA trilogy and I am very much looking forward to more adventures in the world.  Though I don’t know if future books will focus on Shreve or not, Mr. Jacobs has created an engrossing enough world that I will gladly come back, no matter who is narrating next book.

Thank you to Netgalley and Carolrhoda Labs for providing an ARC copy of this book!

Rating: ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠ 

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