Junk Boy

junk boy

Bestselling author Tony Abbott’s YA novel-in-verse is an unflinching and heartbreaking look at a boy’s junk-filled life, and the ways he finds redemption and hope, perfect for fans of The Crossover and Long Way Down.

Junk. That’s what the kids at school call Bobby Lang, mostly because his rundown house looks like a junkyard, but also because they want to put him down. Trying desperately to live under the radar at school―and at the home he shares with his angry, neglectful father―Bobby develops a sort of proud loneliness. The only buffer between him and the uncaring world is his love of the long, wooded trail between school and home.

Life grinds along quietly and hopelessly for Bobby until he meets Rachel. Rachel is an artist who sees him in a way no one ever has. Maybe it’s because she has her own kind of junk, and a parent who hates what Rachel is: gay. Together the two embark on journeys to clean up the messes that fill their lives, searching against all odds for hope and redemption.

Narrated in Bobby’s unique voice in arresting free verse, this novel will captivate readers right from its opening lines, urging them on page after page, all the way to its explosive conclusion.---from the Publisher

368 pages 978-0062491251 Ages 13 and up

Keywords: bullying, finding yourself, LGBTQ, hope, redemption, economic insecurity, school issues, novel in verse, coming of age, dysfunctional family, 13 year old, 14 year old, 15 year old, self esteem, self image, self reliance


“As I walk this land of broken dreams

I have visions of many things

But happiness is just an illusion

Filled with sadness and confusion”

-- Jimmy Ruffin “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” (1967)

The Art Room Door

was wide open

when I passed

and there was sudden noise

an angry voice

growling and spitting

in there

looking in I saw

two girls and a woman

not a teacher

the woman was leaning over

a skinny girl

with curly brown hair

while the other girl

stood shaking at a table

in the corner

her hands

on her face

her face pale

as paper

Ever! Ever! Ever!

was the only word

I heard clearly

the woman said it

through her teeth

then slapped



the skinny girl on her face

like she would slap a man

it was the opposite

of a sweaty schoolyard fight

this was cold and sharp as icicles

that cold froze up my chest

while the woman spun

past me

her shoes clacking fast

and angry down the hall

I shrank to nothing


the skinny girl go

shaking shaking

to the other one

and hug her

kiss her wet face

and her lips

oh okay

but the other one

pried herself loose

twisting her shoulders back

and brushed by me

down the hall

the other way


I started to say but

shut straight up when

the skinny girl

wheeled around to me

What are you staring at?



Help me.

help you?

do what?

Take them! Hang them up?

The show’s next week!

this skinny girl

had dark short hair

in a mess of curls

a frayed T-shirt

almost off one shoulder

and faded jeans

and a sort of face

hard not to look at

and her cheek raw red

are you okay?

but she only looked away

scooping up a pile of big paper

art paper


in her arms

from the corner table

Get the rest. Come on.

get the rest come on

I wanted to ask

what that was all about

the shouting and the slapping

(I got the kissing part)

but already she was

somewhere else in her mind”

Motherless, fifteen-year-old Bobby Lang has been saddled with the nickname “Junk” by the high school bullies. He and his disabled, drunk father live miles off the beaten path, in a leaky shack, surrounded by mountains of junk. Bobby is a struggling kid who does his best to remain invisible at school and at home. Oftentimes, he’s stuck going hungry.

The verse novel JUNK BOY is the story of Bobby and Rachel, the skinny girl with the dark, curly hair. She can be confusing and bossy as hell, but she’s straight with Bobby, and she gets him to speak. As evidenced by a drawing she does of him, Rachel clearly sees something about Bobby that others miss. Bobby cares about her, too, and jumps whenever she demands that he assist or accompany her.

The quirky Rachel is an artist with off-the-chart talent. For obvious reasons, she cannot stand her mother, who wants to have her daughter “reformatted.” Rachel hopes to escape her mother and attend a top-notch art school in New York City, where her father now lives.

Bobby’s father and Rachel’s mother play pivotal roles in the story, along with a local priest named Father Percy.

In equal measure sweet and gritty, and containing superb descriptions of setting, this prose poetry novel would be a quick read except that so many passages just beg to be savored and reread.

Recommended by:  Richie Partington, MLIS, California USA

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