Great Falls
Great Falls
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Annotation: When his older brother returns after tours in Iraq and Afghanistan with severe PTSD, Shane reluctantly agrees to accompany him on a camping trip that becomes a dangerous and life-risking journey as his brother disconnects from reality and succumbs to paranoia.
Catalog Number: #116191
Format: Publisher's Hardcover
All Formats: Search
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Copyright Date: 2016
Edition Date: 2016
Pages: 245 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: 0-7636-7155-X
ISBN 13: 978-0-7636-7155-6
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2015941691
Dimensions: 22 cm.
Language: English
ALA Booklist
Shane's older brother, Jeremy, is never still. After tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, he suffers from PTSD and is always vigilant, looking for enemies that aren't there, while compulsively cleaning his M16 rifle. Following a misadventure at a football game (long story), the two brothers Jeremy's direction nd themselves in a canoe on the north fork of the Shenandoah River, with Shane missing school, and Jeremy confronting an unauthorized absence from a military training mission. Shane knows they are in big trouble, but he has always obeyed his older brother, and now is no different. Then Jeremy makes several irredeemable mistakes, and suddenly all bets are off and the Great Falls are looming. Watkins' treatment of the troubled Jeremy is unsparingly honest yet deeply compassionate, and his fast-paced, suspenseful story is a searing indictment of war and its impact on those who are trying to do a job in the face of unforgiving tragedy. In the end, Jeremy's quoting from Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness sums it up well: "The horror. The horror."
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up Shane's brother, Jeremy, is a Marine just back from three tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. Awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star, Jeremy saved himself and a private from grueling gunfire when they were separated from their unit. When Jeremy returns, his behavior is erratic, though his family makes the excuse of an adjustment period. Instead of living with his wife and two daughters, Jeremy lives in the basement of his childhood home. Some things about Jeremy are certain: he's constantly on edge, is always drinking or drunk, and is usually cleaning his 9mm or M16. When Shane suffers a likely concussion on the football field and scores for the other team, he takes Jeremy up on an offer to get away, resulting in a brief stay at their stepfather's cabin, where Jeremy is gored by a wild pig. What follows is a canoe trip up the Shenandoah River to Harper's Ferry that ends tragically at Great Falls. Jeremy's post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is apparent and manifests through his short fuse, nightmares, jittery anxiety, trouble sleeping, and fits of violence. Jeremy doesn't know how to ask for help, and his family isn't equipped to look for the signs. This stirring untold story sheds light on issues that those in the military face. The gritty language underlies the young men's continuous struggles. VERDICT Watkins portrays family life with a returning veteran with PTSD in a way that will appeal to reluctant readers, especially those who like war or adventure stories. Adrienne L. Strock, Nashville Public Library
Voice of Youth Advocates
Shane is a high school football star with a crush on his big brother Jeremy's wife, Annie, and a father complex toward their two young daughters. He has always idolized Jeremy, but Jeremy's service in Afghanistan has left him a shell of the person Shane used to know. Jeremy spends much of his free time drunk and angry, while Shane spends most of his time substituting for Jeremy as husband and father. That relationship has already cost him one potential girlfriend in Hannah, but when Jeremy shows up after Shane's lowest football moment and the pair escapes to the woods, much more is at stake.After a devastating scene where Jeremy slaughters a herd of wild pigs with his M16, Shane discovers that Jeremy is AWOL from Quantico. Throughout the novel, Shane tries to keep things together: his team, his family, his brother's family, and now his brother as they journey downriver. Whether they are moving toward something or away, all Shane knows is that the longer the trek continues, the less likely there will be a way out. Watkins's portrayal of Shane as a real, flawed teenager who has few answers and little power to change the world beyond small acts of love and concern takes the book far beyond the clichÚs of the PTSD veteran genre. It also makes it that much more heartbreaking.Jim Nicosia.
Bibliography Index/Note: Includes bibliographical references (page [249]).
Word Count: 55,263
Reading Level: 4.9
Interest Level: 9-12
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 4.9 / points: 8.0 / quiz: 503454 / grade: Upper Grades
Lexile: 850L

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.

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