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Reviewed by Jason K. Macomson for Readers' Favorite
As Jericho Falls by Karen C. Webb is a haunting, captivating coming-of-age story set in the wilds of Appalachia, deep in the mountains of North Carolina. Lauren is a fifteen-year-old girl who lives near the remote community of Jericho Falls on a small family farm. She has spent her whole life in this lonely setting, “Fifty miles from nowhere, and one step closer to Hell,” as her mother says. Too far away to ever go to school, she and her sister and brothers are home schooled by their parents. Lauren loves to read, though, and she finds escape in the pages of the books she borrows from a local bookmobile that visits every two weeks. The books she reads fuel Lauren’s desire to leave one day and eventually explore the vastness of the world beyond her secluded mountain home. This summer, while visiting a local healer, she makes a startling discovery: A young boy, about her age, is imprisoned in a cage in the sweltering attic of her neighbor’s home. Jeremy’s violent, abusive father has kept him there for the last eight years after a boyhood prank scares Jeremy so badly that he becomes “queer” in the head. Lauren will spend her summer reaching out to Jeremy and drawing him out of his shell of isolation, in an attempt to tame the wild boy in the cage. Jeremy responds to Lauren’s overtures by opening up to her about the heartbreaking abuse he and his mother have suffered at the hands of his sadistic father. Together they plan a daring rescue and escape to the wide world beyond, but their plans go horribly wrong at the last moment, and Lauren is forced to wonder if perhaps it would have been “better if dreams don’t come true.”
As Jericho Falls by Karen C. Webb is a very promising story with richly drawn characters and settings that create an immersive reading experience like no other. The hauntingly beautiful hills of North Carolina come alive in the pages of this story, and Lauren’s heartrending tale is poignantly told in first person narrative. The author has an incredible talent for relating the angst Lauren feels, growing up in such a primitive, “backward” environment that she longs to escape. The novel flawlessly weaves together the mystery surrounding Jeremy’s past and Lauren’s hopes for the future with the hopelessness of domestic violence. Karen C. Webb has written a powerful, alluring tale that will impact readers in a very personal way. However, the coming-of-age aspect is violently contrasted with a gruesome and jarring ending to an otherwise exceptional story.