Great Falls by Steve Watkins – this is what you get when good writing meets compelling topic.

Great Falls by Steve Watkins – this is what you get when good writing meets compelling topic.

Great Falls is an intense read that had me from the first lines.  I think that it is our responsibility to see the toll war takes on our soldiers, and this book does that in such a remarkable way and through such an engaging and perceptive perspective  I gave Great Falls five stars because it is a book that handles tough issues with a deft and subtle hand and the story has an appeal that transcends age and gender.  Fans of books like The Things We Carried and Chris Lynch’s YA Vietnam series will be particularly happy with this read.

The ebook is available now, but the hardback is not on sale until April 26, 2016.


Goodreads Summary

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 But three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan have taken their toll, and the easy-go-lucky brother Shane knew has been replaced by a surly drunk who carries his loaded 9mm with him everywhere and lives in the basement because he can’t face life with his wife and two small children.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.

My Thoughts

This powerful read is exactly what I look for in a book for my classroom library.  It is engaging as it is meaningful.  I only meant to peruse the first chapter, but the next thing I knew, it was reading the acknowledgements.  Shane is an easy narrator to connect with, and the feeling of powerlessness he exudes is palpable and understandable.  So is the tension.  Shane is desperate to help his brother but the delicate shift and balance is continual, and that makes even the most mundane interactions gripping.  The journey they take together is unexpected and at times hard, but it is a journey I can’t regret taking with them.  I cared about these characters, and I think other readers will as well.  This book is certain to appeal to many of my high school students, particularly the guys, so it is definitely going on my classroom library wishlist.  There is some language, but nothing that would stop me from recommending it to grades 9+.  Adult readers will find it just as engaging.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


About queenbook

When the final bell rings, I stash those messy piles of essays and analysis assignments in a desk drawer and I head home to a pile of good books. My kids and dog eat too many chicken nuggets and the house could be neater, but as long as I get my daily read, I guess we are doing all right. When I was twelve and fifteen and eighteen and twenty, I believed I needed to get out there and do those things I had just been reading about, which ended in disaster, tears, a tattoo that scares me every time I catch a glimpse of it in the mirror, and the realization that some of us are meant for action, and some of us are meant to critique the pace of action in a book. I read primarily YA fiction as I have a rather hulking classroom library and a hundred high school readers to engage daily. Nothing makes me happier than coming to school and finding an impatient teenager waiting by my door to turn in a book and get another one just like it. I adore a good zombie, a medieval princess, or girl assassin (I would like them all in one book if you are a writer looking for some inspiration). I add historical mystery to my wish list a year in advance, and you should get out of my way when the next Outlander book comes out. I have an embarrassing fondness for rock star books, but only if they don’t get too trashy and embarrass me. My favorite book of all time is The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery. My book boyfriends include Gilbert Blythe, Alonzo Wilder, and Jamie Fraser. They are mine and you can’t have them.

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