Great Falls

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 But three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan have taken their toll, and the easy-go-lucky brother Shane knew has been replaced by a surly drunk who carries his loaded 9mm with him everywhere and lives in the basement because he can’t face life with his wife and two small children.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.

You can find this book on here!

Ghosts of War Book #4: Fallen in Fredericksburg

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?

Buy this book on or at your Scholastic school book fair!

Ghosts of War Book #3: AWOL in North Africa

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?

Buy this book on or at your Scholastic school book fair!

Ghosts of War Book #2: Lost at Khe Sanh

Buy them at your Scholastic school book fair or order them from (or wherever cool books are sold).

Lost at Khe Sanh







Ghosts of War Book #1: The Secret of Midway

Buy them at your Scholastic school book fair or order them from (or wherever cool books are sold).

The Secret of Midway





JUVIE: A Novel


Publisher: Candlewick

Pages: 320

Price ( Hardcover ): $17.99

Publication Date: October 8, 2013

ISBN ( Hardcover ): 978-0-7636-5509-9 Category: Fiction

Once you’re in juvie, it doesn’t matter if you’re a good girl.

Sadie’s the good sister: taking care of her mentally ill, shut-in father; raising her party-girl sister Carla’s 3-year-old daughter, Lulu; making good grades; and playing basketball in hopes of a scholarship that will get her out of her crummy Virginia town. One night, while Sadie tries to keep Carla out of trouble, the two of them are caught in a sting. Carla’s on probation for shoplifting and possession, so Sadie agrees to take the fall, thinking she’ll get off with some community-service hours. But she’s caught before a hanging judge in the mood to make an example of drug-dealing minors, and the next thing she knows, she’s spending six months in juvie. Neither the guards nor the inmates in juvenile detention are interested in rehabilitation. Demeaned and degraded, her schooling reduced to pointless GED-prep workbooks from apathetic teachers, barred from the simple comfort of human contact, Sadie doesn’t see how she can return to her outward-bound trajectory when her six months are over. She wants to make friends, to avoid trouble and to protect those weaker than her, but none of that is as simple as it seems. In the midst of the terrible reality, realistically tiny glimmers of hope shine like candles fighting the darkness.

A bleakly optimistic reminder to hold on to what is good. (Fiction. 13-17)

From the Candlewick Press Fall/Winter 2013 Catalog:

JUVIE tells the story of two sisters grappling with accountability, sacrifice — and who will be there to help you after you take the fall.

Sadie Windas has always been the responsible one — she’s the star player on her AAU basketball team, she gets good grades, she dates a cute soccer player, and she tries to help out at home. Not like her older sister, Carla, who leaves her three-year-old daughter, Lulu, with Aunt Sadie while she parties and gets high. But when both sisters are caught up in a drug deal — wrong place, wrong time — it falls to Sadie to confess to a crime she didn’t commit to keep Carla out of jail and Lulu out of foster care. Sadie is supposed to get off with a slap on the wrist, but somehow, impossibly, gets sentenced to six months in juvie. As life as Sadie knew it disappears beyond the stark bars of her cell, her anger — at her ex-boyfriend, at Carla, and at herself — fills the empty space left behind. Can Sadie forgive Carla for getting her mixed up in this mess? Can Carla straighten herself out to make a better life for Lulu, and for all of them? Can Sadie survive her time in juvie with her spirit intact?

Want to buy a copy? Click here.


Named by Bank Street College

as a Best YA Book of 2012

(and selected as a finalist for the Georgia Peach YA Fiction Award)

“‘Beautiful’ is a good word to describe this book, which I will boldly call my favorite so far in 2011. Steve Watkins’ writing is transparent and sensitive, and you will fall in love with Iris….” Recent 60-Second Recap Pick of the Week! Check out the video.

“WHAT COMES AFTER is a powerful and heartwrenching YA contemporary read. Watkins slips effortlessly into Iris’ voice and gives us a gorgeously told story about both the extreme cruelty and the endurance of human nature….WHAT COMES AFTER is arguably one of the strongest contemporary reads I’ve had the pleasure of discovering this year so far.” From Steph Su Reads.

GIRLS OF SUMMER has selected WHAT COMES AFTER as one of its featured books. Recommended summer reading about and for strong girls and young women. Check it out, along with an interview I did with my fellow Candlewick author Gigi Amateau for the Girls of Summer web site.

Author interviews, characters interviews, top ten lists, reviews and more from WHAT COMES AFTER. Teen Book Scene blog tour.

Want to buy a copy? Click here.

Kindle edition available, too. And audio.


Abandoned first by her abusive mother and then by her father when he dies, 16-year-old Iris Wight is no stranger to loss. Family friends initially agree to care for her, but problems soon force Iris to leave her home in Maine to live with relatives in North Carolina. Life with her angry aunt and dangerous cousin quickly proves more than she can handle. Before Iris’s arrival, her aunt’s abusive behavior was focused on the farm animals, but as Iris begins to protest the inhumane treatment of the goats, her aunt’s cruelty shifts toward her. The violence culminates in a horrific beating that lands Iris in the hospital and her aunt and cousin in jail, leaving Iris to navigate yet another change. She must learn to wade through the foster-care system and deal with animosity at school while trying to find a way to care for her beloved goats left back at the farm. While never gratuitous, violence is pervasive; difficult scenes include one that graphically describes a goat being bludgeoned to death, which may prove to be a turn-off for some readers. Watkins displays his expertise as he creates a heroine who is broken and yet refuses to stay down. Secondary characters are equally well-developed and engaging. Beautifully written, this story is an unflinching look at the cruelty of life as well as the resilience of the human spirit. (Fiction. 14 & up)


2009 Winner, Golden Kite Award for Fiction

Now Out in Paperback, E-Book and Audio

Want to buy a copy? Click here.

Also on Kindle.

And audio, too.

Back in March 2009, The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators named my novel DOWN SAND MOUNTAIN the winner of the Golden Kite Award for Young Adult Fiction. Claire, Lili, Janet and I flew out to L.A. in August for the SCBWI conference and awards ceremony. Had breakfast with Tim Roth. Did a book signing with Henry Winkler, sort of (we were both in the same room with a couple of dozen other writers). Toured the Getty with that actress who plays Meadow Soprano (well, might have seen her). Flew back to D.C. with that guy who plays the lead on “Lost.” They were all exceedingly jealous of my Golden Kite Award, which is a bronze casting of a little guy flying a kite. It’s possible that they thought I won an award for kite flying. It was a nice follow-up to the New England Independent Booksellers Association’s selection of DOWN SAND MOUNTAIN as one of the top 10 Young Adult books of the year. Click here to see my talk at the Golden Kite Award ceremony.

BOOKLIST (Starred Review)

In 1966, a white kid discovers the cruelty in his small, segregated Florida mining town, where :everybody knew everybody else, unless they were colored,: and racism is the norm, in himself, too. All Dewey, 12, wants is to fit in and have people like him, but that gets even harder after he stains his face with black shoe polish to dance in the local minstrel show, and the white bullies choose him as a target. Then his father, a miner, runs for city council again, even though he always loses because he wants to improve the blacks’ neighborhood, where Dewey hates going. In his debut YA novel, award-winning adult author Watkins tells a classic loss-of-innocence story. The simple, beautiful prose remains totally true to the child’s bewildered viewpoint, which is comic when Dewey does not get the big picture (“you never knew what was really going on”), anguished when he finally sees the truth. The plot includes Dewey’s secret romance with his classmate and the sweet revenge on the bullies, and the daily detail about small things. Multiple local characters sometimes bogs the story. Still, there is neither too much nostalgia nor message, and readers will be haunted by the disturbing drama of harsh secrets close to home.

Hazel Rochman

The Black O: Racism and Redemption in an American Corporate Empire

University of Georgia Press

Now out in paperback.

Winner of the Virginia College Stores Award for Best Book by a Virginia Author

Finalist for the Lillian Smith Nonfiction Book Award

Honorable Mention for the Gustavus Myers Book Award

From the University of Georgia Press:

“In 1988 several white managers of the Shoney’s restaurant chain protested against the company’s discriminatory hiring practices, including an order to blacken the ‘O’ in ‘Shoney’s’ on minorities’ job applications so that the marked forms could be discarded. When the managers refused to comply, they lost their jobs but not their resolve–they sued the company. Their case grew into the largest racial job discrimination class action lawsuit of its time. Shoney’s eventually offered to settle out of court, and the nearly 21,000 claimants divided a $132.5 million settlement, bringing to an abrupt end a landmark case that changed corporate attitudes nationwide.

The Black O is a fascinating, behind-the-scenes story populated with many unforgettable characters, including civil rights lawyer Tommy Warren, the former college football star and convicted felon who took the case; Ray Danner, the ironfisted CEO who developed the Shoney’s concept; and Justice Clarence Thomas, former head of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which sat idly by for years while complaints mounted against Shoney’s. The Black O speaks to an issue that continues to have great urgency, serving as a stark refutation that the civil rights movement eliminated systemic discrimination from the workplace.”

“A meticulously documented account.” –New York Times

“A startling journalistic effort… An unsettling, fascinating revelation of a truly wretched corporate environment and a rare triumph for the underdog.” –Kirkus Reviews

“Although it is actually a painstakingly researched account of the largest private civil rights case in U. S. history, at times it reads like an old-fashioned detective story.” –Washington Monthly


Southern Methodist University Press

Honorable Mention, Library of Virginia Book Award

Finalist, Paterson Fiction Prize

“Critterworld,” winner of the Pushcart Prize

11 Responses to Books

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  5. rachel engle says:

    Just finished Juvie. It’s a beautifully written book. You left me wanting more! I want to know if Sadie makes it back to ‘the real world’.

  6. swatkins says:

    Thank you, Rachel. Maybe a sequel at some point? I’d be curious to know if YOU think she’ll make it back to, and back in, the outside world. All best.

  7. Claire says:

    People should definitely check out My Chaos Theory! Critter world shows how violent people are to animals, it’s a very interesting and well told short story, I’m proud of you, Dad!

  8. lalo says:

    i have the book ghost of war 1 and 2 and my cousin has 3 and 4

  9. swatkins says:

    That’s great. I hope you and your cousin will share books!

  10. Javan says:

    Your book sink or swim is the best book ever

  11. swatkins says:

    Hey, thanks, Javan. Appreciate the note. Hope all is well in Javanland.

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