Great Falls

Great Falls
Author(s)
Genre(s)
Age Range
12+
Release Date
April 26, 2016
ISBN
9780763671556
One brother home from war. The other desperate to save him. A gripping journey together to the river's end.
Shane has always worshiped his big brother, Jeremy. But three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan have taken their toll, and the easy-go-lucky brother Shane knew has been replaced by a surly drunk who carries his loaded 9mm with him everywhere and lives in the basement because he can’t face life with his wife and two small children. When Jeremy shows up after Shane’s football game and offers to take him to the family cabin overnight, Shane goes along — both to get away from a humiliation on the field and to keep an eye on Jeremy, who’s AWOL from his job at Quantico and seems to have a shorter fuse than ever. But as the camping trip turns into a days-long canoe trip down the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers, Shane realizes he’s in way over his head — and has no idea how to persuade Jeremy to return home and get the help he needs before it’s too late. In a novel at once gripping and heartbreaking, Steve Watkins offers a stark exploration of the unseen injuries left by war.

User reviews

2 reviews
Overall rating
 
4.7
Plot
 
4.5(2)
Characters
 
5.0(2)
Writing Style
 
4.5(2)
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Gritty but honest portrayal
Overall rating
 
4.3
Plot
 
4.0
Characters
 
5.0
Writing Style
 
4.0
I would not be able to hand this book to my thirteen-year-old son, as much as I would like to, in part because of the language. But I believe that high school aged kids would be fine with the content; it's no worse than what they hear on the bus. The book also had a few scenes that made me cringe, but again, not because they were inappropriate or unrealistic, so I don't mean that a a negative. I just mean that this is probably not an appropriate read for a middle grade audience in case someone was deliberating whether to buy for younger readers. Lastly, I believe the affected character behaved very much like many other young veterans based on my own experience. I feel the author was fair and honest in his portrayal of not only the veteran but of his family members and spouse. Well done, Steve Watkins, and thank you for giving us a book that a certain audience needed.
Good Points
I'm so glad the author wrote about a family (actually two families) dealing with a returning soldier with PTSD. So many people right now are dealing with this same issue (like my own family) and it means a lot to be able to read something one can relate to. There just aren't enough YA books that deal with this tough issue.
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Grippingly realistic
Overall rating
 
5.0
Plot
 
5.0
Characters
 
5.0
Writing Style
 
5.0
Shane knows he's living atop a powder keg, both literally and figuratively. His step dad acts like he's running a marine corps division, even though he never really saw combat and is retired. His mother is intimidated by her husband, but does try to keep peace after he explodes. The real ticking bomb, however, lives in the basement. That's where Shane's older brother, Jeremy hides from the world and his demons.
Jeremy served three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and now can't deal with peacetime back home. The invisible scars inside him fester, preventing him from sleeping, finishing out his tour at Quantico , or living with his wife Annie and their two infant daughters.
Shane feels adrift himself, not sure how to deal with Jeremy, angry at his stepfather and becoming detached from his teammates on the high school football team. He's ambivalent about his feelings for Annie, even though helping her and offering a supportive ear make him feel better.
That feeling of being adrift takes on a whole new meaning when Jeremy coerces him into skipping school and taking an impromptu canoe trip down the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers. What transpires between the brothers and how the trip ends up make for a very well done and gripping read. It reminded me of Laurie Halse Anderson's The Impossible Knife of Memory in terms of getting readers to understand the scope and severity of war induced guilt, dreams and PTSD.
While there is violence and strong language in the story, both are integral parts of it and shouldn't deter libraries from adding a copy to their collection. This is an excellent and gut-hitting story.
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