It’s a little bit Shawshank Redemption, a little bit X-Men, as adult author Jacobs (This Dark Earth) launches a promising trilogy about superhuman teens. Fifteen-year-old Shreve Cannon is passing the time in Pulaski Juvenile Detention Center, selling candy to his fellow inmates, when he’s assigned a new roommate: Jack Graves, a small, quiet 13-year-old with 12 fingers and uncontrollable telekinetic abilities. When a stranger named Mr. Quincrux shows up, sporting nasty mental powers and an uncomfortable interest in Jack, the boys have no choice but to break out of juvie and go on the run. Attempting to stay one step ahead of Quincrux, they master Jack’s telekinesis and Shreve’s newfound telepathy, and eventually must choose between freedom and justice. While the story spins its wheels at times (parts of Jack and Shreve’s day-to-day life in juvie and on the road can drag, even with superpowers involved), and a number of questions are left to later books, the premise is sound, Shreve’s hard-edged narrative voice is strong, and Jacobs skillfully builds tension and mystery throughout. Ages 14–up. Agent: Stacia Decker, Donald Maass Literary Agency. (Feb.)
- Sharon M. Himsl
Shreveport Cannon (fifteen) lives with his alcoholic mom and little brother in a trashy trailer court. Life really could not be much worse—until the arrest. Shreve foolishly steals a neighbor's truck and is sentenced to eighteen months in Casimer Pulaski Juvenile Detention Center for Boys. Despite the adjustment, Shreve fits in with his peers and actually enjoys the stability Casimer provides. However, six months into his sentence Shreve is told he will share his cell with a younger boy, Jack Graves. Jack comes from a violent background and had seriously hurt five foster kids, putting all in the hospital. Shreve is puzzled by this violent record since Jack is small in size and seems like a nice kid. Shreve then learns that Jack has twelve fingers (six on each hand), which to his surprise triggers a violent reaction when Jack notices his stare. A strange energy flow from Jack ripples the air and damages everything in its path. Shreve is unharmed but Jack feels terrible, because it is something he cannot control. Meanwhile, two human services officials (Quincrux and a woman) come to interview Jack. Shreve spies behind doors and learns they are interested in Jack's powers, and apparently have powers of their own. Shreve observes the warden standing nearby in a zombie-like state. When the session ends the warden is then awakened, confused. Later Shreve experiences something similar when Quincrux attempts a mind/body control, but Shreve resists and the unexpected happens. A power transfers to Shreve that enables mind control of others. Convinced of Quincrux's evil motives, Shreve escapes with Jack from Casimer. The plan is to avoid capture, learn how to control their powers, and find out why Quincrux and others fear a northern state, Maryland. Jacobs does a good job of honing in on the boys' need for control and normalcy in their lives. Jack becomes Shreve's little brother, but unlike Shreve, Jack does not have a home to return to someday. It is a need that Shreve miscalculates and must reason out on his own. Fast-paced throughout, The Twelve-Fingered Boy is mostly geared for boys. Reviewer: Sharon M. Himsl
Jacobs serves up a juvenile-detention story flavored with weirdness. Shreveport Justice Cannon, know within the Casimir Pulaski Juvenile Detention Center for Boys as Shreve, is happy to deal candy and wait until his sentence is up. When Jack Graves arrives and is assigned to Shreve's cell, Casimir Juvie starts receiving visits from the mysterious Mr. Quincrux and Ilsa. They are curious about Jack's polydactyly--he is the titular 12-fingered boy--and the strange circumstances that brought Jack to Casimir. Shreve and Jack are forced to flee from Quincrux and his creepy ability to invade people's minds, even as Shreve seems to develop a talent for mind hijacking as well. While both teens are perfectly likable, there's nothing new about them either. Shreve's back story of neglect and self-sacrifice and Jack's outcast status based on physical appearance are all too familiar. Quincrux's power adds a dash of paranormal horror, but a potentially intriguing exploration of moral relativism through Shreve's possessions becomes more lecture than narrative. A string of seemingly random encounters provides action but works against narrative cohesion. Against the plethora of mutant and superhuman narratives, this effort just feels shopworn. (Paranormal adventure. 12-14)
John Hornor Jacobs has worked in advertising for the last fifteen years, played in bands, and pursued art in various forms. He is the author of the adult novels Southern Gods (Night Shade Books), which was nominated for an Edgar Award and This Dark Earth (Gallery/Pocket Books). The Twelve-Fingered Boy is his first work for young adults.