The Juvie Three, by Gordon Korman, is a piece of fiction which reached out and grabbed me. So much so, that when I finished it, I reached out and grabbed my thirteen-year-old son, thrust the book into his hands, and said, "Read this." I left no options.
Was it because of a strong anti-crime message? No. Was it because of a strong anti-gang message? No. I made my kid read it because it is a GOOD book. The characters are well-written and their stories as individuals and their story as a trio are all compelling.
Gecko, Arjay, and Terence are all juvenile offenders. Gecko drove the get-away car for his brother's gang, Arjay accidentally killed another boy--the eyewitness testimony of biased others said it was intentional--and Terence is a gangsta wannabe who planned a heist perpetrated by others. They are sprung from their various places of incarceration to live in a sort of half-way house run by Douglas Healy. He understands them in ways they never thought possible, and is determined to show them that they can have a better life than the one they were bound for. There is a fly in the ointment in the form of a nasty social worker riding herd on this special project, and if one boy messes up, all three will have to go back to jail.
Gecko and Arjay are happy for the opportunity to escape lock-up and they are determined to play by the rules. Terence has no such ambition. He immediately begins trying to ingratiate himself in a local gang. On his way to the fire escape late one night to meet his new contact, he is set upon by Gecko and Arjay. Douglas hears the commotion and comes to investigate. He is accidentally knocked off the fire escape and hits his head. The boys manage to drop the unconscious man off anonymously at a hospital emergency room.
Terence is all for cutting and running, but Gecko and Arjay prevail upon him to stick around. They all continue going to school and their community-service job. Gecko finds a way to volunteer at the hospital to keep tabs on the comatose Douglas. When Douglas awakes, the boys' situation turns from precarious to imperiled. Their guardian has amnesia and the social worker is coming for an inspection in seven days.
Gordon Korman excels at writing books that kids, especially boys, love to read. This one is no exception.