Jed and the Junkyard War (Jed and the Junkyard War, book 1)
Jed and the Junkyard Rebellion (Jed and the Junkyard War, Book 2)
By: Steven Bohls
My Rating: Three and a half out of five stars
Best for: 10 and up
So much potential…
Jed and the Junkyard War and Jed and the Junk Yard Rebellion are super fun middle grade fantasy, steam punk adventures with really (REALLY) cool world building. They are absolutely bursting with potential, but fell just an teeny tiny bit short of complete awesomeness. My kids love them though, and that’s really all that matters!
I discovered Jed after reading Lux, the book Brandon Sanderson co-wrote with his former student, Steven Bohls. Lux was great, so I looked to see what else Steven wrote. Lo and behold, his debut novel was Jed and The Junkyard War, followed by it’s sequel, Jed and the Junkyard Rebellion. Brandon Sanderson took the time to bestow one of his rare 5 star reviews on Jed and the Junkyard War. He’s never steered me wrong, so I got myself a copy and went to work.
So, what did I love?
Jed and the Junkyard War is a middle-grade story with really fun world building that pushed the boundaries of fun to almost (but not quite getting to) ridiculous. Jed’s parents trained him to be a self-reliant problem solver in extreme ways–like dropping him off in the middle of Yellowstone with nothing but four dollars and a can of soda the day before his 12th birthday. The goal? To find his way home before his dad eats all his birthday cake. Where’s home? Denver!
Through ingenuity and resourcefulness, Jed makes it home with time to spare. But when he wakes up the next morning, his parents have vanished. The only clue is a mysterious letter with instructions to follow a hidden tunnel behind the dishwasher that leads to…a world made of junk! Alice went to Wonderland. Jed went to junk land!
In this backwards somewhere, people live in floating cities, junk scavengers fly on junk ships, only eat canned food they find in the junk piles, use batteries as money, deal with junk storms, and keep an eye out for dread–terrifying creatures that are part junk, part human. I’m telling you, there is so much creativity here! The characters are a ton of fun, and I really got into the adventure.
I also appreciated the real peril, and I think that’s what sucked me in. Jed is faced with some scary stuff, and I liked that Steven Bohls writes for middle graders without dumbing things down for them. Jed’s parents are lost, he’s confused about who he is, and the more he learns about himself, the more uncertain he becomes. Are his parents really his parents? Why did they vanish? And why do the dreads seem to be after him, in particular?
So what bugged me, then?
With all the detailed world building, I was really surprised will all the plot shortcuts. Questions that demanded answering were never answered. Important characters never finished their arc. Solutions to key problems conveniently appeared. Once the world was introduced and the story got going at the end of book one, things really started to drag. I loved book one, but felt pretty let down by the development of book two.
These are all grown-up frustrations with a middle grade story. The only real opinion that matters is the one from its target audience–and my kids love Jed! I’ve finished both books, but we’re only partway through book 1 together. And they keep begging for more reading time!
That sounds like a winner to me!
The content is middle grade appropriate, including PG level peril. Best for 10 and up.