Review: Juvie by Steve Watkins

Posted January 26, 2015 by chooseyabooks in reviews / 1 Comment

I received this book for free from Walker Books in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Juvie by Steve WatkinsTitle: Juvie
Publisher: Walker Books
Publication Date: 1st January 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction, Friendship, General, Young Adult
Pages: 320
Format: Paperback
Source: Walker Books
three-half-stars

Heart-wrenching and real, Juvie offers an unflinching and poignant view of life in juvenile detention, and will appeal to fans of TV shows like Orange Is the New Black. Sadie Windas has always been the responsible one - she's the star player on her 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 and 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?

Review: I was lucky enough to be invited to Walker Books blogger brunch last November and had a wonderful time chatting with bloggers and publishing people, eating yummy food and hearing all about the upcoming books from Walker. One of them immediately caught my attention with its striking cover and compelling concept: Juvie.

Described alongside Orange Is The New Black comparisons, Juvie tells the story of Sadie who is accidentally caught up in a drug deal. To keep her sister out of jail, and niece out of care, Sadie confesses despite being innocent. What was meant to just be a slap on the wrist turns into a six month sentence and when we meet Sadie she’s just about to start this.

Juvie surprised me as I read it. It is far more about Sadie’s own journey and growth than action. The structure is divided between past (what led to juvie) and present time serving her sentence. With the flashbacks I loved seeing more of Sadie’s family, something that could have easily not featured in a novel set away from home, and in particular her relationship with Lulu, her adorable niece. I did find Sadie’s relationship with her sister Carla frustrating as Carla was a difficult character to sympathise with at times and I really wanted her to step up more for both her daughter and her sister.

Sadie was a strong narrator and I thought the moments where she discovered more about her fellow inmates and  the way first impression and innocent expressions can actually be deceiving. The only criticism of the fellow inmates was that not all of them stood out to me and a few felt quite cliched.

There were some great tense moments in the final third of the novel I won’t spoil and I found the whole book very readable and compelling. I read it in just over one sitting and wanted to find out what would happen to Sadie. The ending was also quite open and while I often like this openness and making my own conclusions, I wanted something a little more cement personally.

Overall, Juvie is an interesting and character focused story with an unglamorised look at the justice system, and a novel that I think would appeal to fans of Orange is the New Black and similar programmes.

three-half-stars

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