Writing a book that fully connects with a teenage audience can be tough when one is no longer a teenager. Those guys don’t accept any pandering. But with the Twelve-Fingered Boy, John Jacobs has found a trick that lets him do just that. He constantly references TV and film in order to describe a scene or give dialogue to the teenage boys that occupy the plot. Shrive, the main character, compares every part of his journey to how life works in a TV show, and when he’s hospitalized at one point, even hallucinates that he’s in a medical show. It’s all cleverly done, engaging, and speaks to a young, media-saturated generation. Wish I’d thought of that first.
The Twelve-Fingered Boy follows Shrive as he gets a new roommate at juvenile detention, Jack, who turns out to have a dozen fingers and a superpower. Shrive ends up throwing himself between Jack and the mysterious man who’s after him, only to find a hidden world of power and danger.
Jacobs’ writing has clear strengths and just one weakness. He’s great at characterization, with flair for dramatic description and entertaining lingo that he pumps out at the pace I like: fast. There’s a particularly literary style to the prose of good genre fiction, and Jacobs understands this.
The book’s gritty, hard-hitting content is also a boon. The topics covered include alcoholic moms, disturbed kids, and serial-killer pedophiles. This focus keeps the story engaging despite the author’s one flaw: the individual plot points are run-of-the-mill, predictable stuff. The powers, telekinesis and mind reading, are so over-used by now that Stephen King just throws them into his novels randomly, and the cat-and-mouse chasing continues for the entire book.
That said, the mysteries that the book sets up in the future are intriguing, particularly the shadowy evil lurking in Manhattan, and combined with the excellent characterization, this book is a strongly worthwhile read.
5 stars. Originally posted on GoodReads at https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/630124482