Author: Steve Watkins

Review Issue Date: February 1, 2016
Online Publish Date: January 20, 2016
Pages: 256
Price ( Hardcover ): $17.99
Publication Date: April 26, 2016
ISBN ( Hardcover ): 978-0-7636-7155-6
Category: Fiction

Two brothers try to flee their demons on a canoe trip. Seventeen-year-old, 6-foot, 210-pound linebacker Shane Dupree is a high school football star waiting for a sports scholarship. His older brother, Jeremy, was just as celebrated: he had ace football skills, was the valedictorian of his class, and is beloved by everyone in their community. Jeremy has other accolades too, including a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star, and after three deployments in Iraq, he’s back home with his family. Jeremy came home with more than medals, however. He carries and cleans his 9mm wherever he goes. He sleeps in the basement of his parents’ house, away from his wife and daughters. He is clearly suffering, and things take a turn for the worse when he enlists a concussed Shane for a frightening camping excursion with a canoe, a deadly assault rifle, and plenty of beer and whiskey. Watkins’ latest (Juvie, 2013, etc.) rings with the truth of the plight of veterans who’ve struggled to return to their daily lives after having witnessed what no doubt is sheer horror. Shane’s present-tense narration is fast-paced, full of blunt, uncompromising, sometimes-shocking cruelty. Readers can’t help noticing how Watkins plays Shane’s football prowess against Jeremy’s war stories. Both are battered warriors making sense of what they’ve been taught to do. A gripping, moving, disturbing tale of homecoming. (Fiction. 14-18)


Great Falls

Steve Watkins, Author

The true cost of war comes back to haunt a family as a teenage football star faces his veteran brother’s slow self-destruction. Shane Dupree used to idolize his older brother, Jeremy, but Jeremy has become a paranoid, alcoholic mess ever since he returned from his deployment, suffering from PTSD, nightmares, and more. When Jeremy asks Shane to join him on a trip to the family’s hunting cabin, it seems like a chance to bond and talk sense into his older brother. Instead, they embark on an impromptu canoe trip down the Shenandoah River, with Jeremy getting progressively more reckless as the full scope of his trauma is gradually revealed. Watkins (Juvie) delivers a powerful, emotionally raw tale, heartbreaking in its portrayal of damaged veterans, the price some pay to serve, and the toll it takes on their friends and family. It’s also a raw coming-of-age journey for Shane as he struggles with his own feelings, especially toward “the Colonel,” the brothers’ emotionally abusive, micromanaging, ex-military stepfather. Ages 14–up. Agent: Kelly Sonnack, Andrea Brown Literary Agency. (Apr.)


Watkins, Steve. Great Falls. 256p. ebook available. Candlewick. Apr. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780763671556.

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


Great Falls.

Watkins, Steve (Author) Dec 2015. 256 p. Candlewick, hardcover, $17.99. (9780763671556).

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—at Jeremy’s direction—find 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 fastpaced, 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.” — Michael Cart



Two news Ghosts of War books from Scholastic–AWOL in North Africa and Fallen in Fredericksburg–and a new YA novel from Candlewick, Great Falls. Here are the covers and publishers’ blurbs.









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.

And check this out: Early review (Great Falls won’t be out until April 2016) and advance recommendation as Best Boy Book of the Month.


Anderson and his friends Greg and Julie have been doing everything they can to avoid the battered trunk full of old military things in his family’s junk shop basement. Only, staying away seems impossible, and this time Anderson discovers a dusty World War II medic’s bag inside the trunk. But who does it belong to? Because if the friends have learned anything, it’s that they are about to be face-to-face with a ghost.

When an army medic ghost appears, Anderson’s not sure how to help him. Or if he should help him. The ghost claims he was stationed in North Africa during World War II. But as far as Anderson knows, World War II was fought in Europe. So what’s the real story behind this ghost?

Can Anderson, Greg, and Julie solve the mystery, or have they become part of a dangerous haunting?


After three ghosts, it looks like things might be going back to normal for Anderson and his friends Greg and Julie. It’s been a while since any ghosts have shown up, and the most annoying things lately are the loud barking dogs at the Dogs and Suds pet-grooming shop next door to the Kitchen Sink. They’ve been barking nonstop for days, and it’s making band practice impossible. But maybe the dogs know something the friends don’t . . .

Because suddenly a ghost does appear! From what Anderson can tell, it looks like the ghost is a teenage Union soldier from the Civil War, and he looks terrifying. But this ghost is different from the others: He’s demanding to know what happened to his brother, who was also enlisted in the Union army. It’s a mystery that’s over a hundred and fifty years old, and there are very few clues. What will happen to Anderson, Greg, and Julie if they can’t solve this one in time?

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