Title: The June Boys
Author: Court Stevens
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Released: March 3, 2020
Content Warnings: Abuse: kidnapping, neglect, death of a minor.
Representation: African-American side character
Synopsis*: The Gemini Thief could be anyone. Your father, your mother, your best friend’s crazy uncle. Some country music star’s deranged sister. Anyone.
The Gemini Thief is a serial kidnapper, who takes three boys and holds them captive from June 1st to June 30th of the following year. The June Boys endure thirteen months of being stolen, hidden, observed, and fed before they are released, unharmed, by their masked captor. The Thief is a pro, having eluded authorities for nearly a decade and taken at least twelve boys.
Now Thea Delacroix has reason to believe the Gemini Thief took a thirteenth victim: her cousin, Aulus McClaghen.
But the game changes when one of the kidnapped boys turns up dead. Together with her boyfriend Nick and her best friends, Thea is determined to find the Gemini Thief and the remaining boys before it’s too late. Only she’s beginning to wonder something sinister, something repulsive, something unbelievable, and yet, not impossible:
What if her father is the Gemini Thief?
You’re telling me that it’s not every teen girl’s dream of having her own castle??? Sounds fake.
Dad called after me, “You’re missing the point. We own a castle.” And then another time with joyful oomph. “We own a castle.”
Okay so maybe that intro is burying the lead a little.
Someone is stealing boys in Tennessee only to give them back after a year.
Except this time one of the boys has been found dead and Thea is determined to find out who it is and get her cousin Aulus back before it’s too late, even if the thief turns out to be her own father. Who, by the way, happens to have been building a castle and keeping it a secret for the past 10 years. Basically every father figure in Thea’s life—and there are many—has been lying to her.
For someone with a castle, Thea’s got it pretty rough.
The Gemini Thief could be anyone.
Your father, your mother, your best friend’s crazy uncle.
Some country music star’s deranged sister. Anyone.
Someone is stealing Tennesse’s boys.
Report suspicious behavior.
Wildwood is filled with a whole lot of suspicious af uncles and exhausted feds. And somewhere, possibly nearby, somebody is holding three boys in a basement against their will.
It’s like every other small town you read in a contemporary novel: People aren’t very progressive in their beliefs, and they’ll quickly paint whoever they deem weird as the monster behind the kidnappings. If you’re different than you’re the dangerous one.
Have you noticed hates often easy when it should be hard and hard when it should be easy?
I thoroughly enjoyed the way this book was told. I love getting multiple perspectives, especially ones provided in a different format. In The June Boys, the story is mostly told from Thea’s POV in the normal first-person style but then we get the other perspective from Aulus in letter’s he writes to Elizabeth Smart—a real-life kidnapping survivor who has gone on to become a child safety activist. But that wasn’t even my favourite part of these letters.
Out there, you lose someone and life slips into your empty places the way rain fills low places in the yard. Down here, four people are the whole world. You lose one and it’s a hole in the dam, water flooding in all the time.
They’re so raw and true to Aulus’s experiences and what I imagine it would be like if these were real-life circumstances. Aulus has been cut off from the world for a long time and left to be a big brother/parental figure to these kids he’s living in isolation with. That’s a whole world of weight on a teenage boys shoulders in an environment that would break anyone down.
My heart broke with every letter, reading how much worse things are getting for these boys while Aulus still tried to remain hopeful for the sake of others.
Be warned though, the letters are kind of non-linear with Thea’s POV so it takes a little while to get a handle on when it’s all happening but I enjoyed that. If you struggle or straight-up dislike/hate non-linear story-telling then this book probably isn’t for you. Luckily for me, I love that kind of story-telling so it was one of my favourite parts of this book!
None of those stories told me there’d come a day when I’d count the lock on my door as a cruel irony. Because here’s the real truth: you can’t keep darkness out if he has a key.
I know that for some people reading the digital ARC the formatting of the letters was really bad and made it hard to follow but I think that comes down to whatever program/app you’re using to read it. I tried Kindle first but it was a mess, as it usually is with any book that isn’t traditionally formatted (its awful with poetry ARCs too) so then I gave Digital Editions a try and it was perfect.
If you put this down because the formatting made it too hard to read I want to let you know that you still have time! It won’t be archived from Netgalley until May so download the protected PDF and open it on Digital Editions!
“When you’re eighteen, love is starlight in your pocket. For some people starlight’s a gift, and for others it’s a fire that needs putting out.”
I do think the story needed a little more??? Something?
It wasn’t as fast-paced as I would have liked. While I looked forward to my bus rides where I got time to read The June Boys, I didn’t feel compelled to read it outside of that time I have set aside because I wasn’t as desperate to know what would happen next. For me, that’s the best indicator of if a great book is a 4 or 5 star read.
I mean I definitely did read it outside of my bus trips but that was more because I was reading this book as part of a readathon and I wanted to finish it before it came to an end.
I don’t have room for . . . I don’t know what it is I don’t have room for. Sometimes I’m afraid it’s happiness.
🔖 If you would like a free phone wallpaper created by yours truly, stay till the end of this post where you’ll find a link to download TWO!
I’ve already gushed about Aulus, so what about Thea?
She also felt very real to me. The kind of paranoia that would build up when the people you love keep disappearing on you—and for Thea that is quite literal—is overwhelming to say the least. She starts to question if she can trust her dad, her uncles, her godparents, her boyfriend’s fed sister… Those are pretty much all the adults in her life who she no longer trusts.
But she is determined and incredibly loyal to Aulus. She can’t even picture living a normal life with Aulus gone.
She’s willing to give up any resemblance of a future she might have dreamed for herself before his disappearance, in pursuit of getting her cousin back.
But Thea and Aulus aren’t the only characters I fell in love within this book.
“I know that look.” He tucks a wet rope of hair around my ear. “You’ve got Joan of Arc in your eyes. You need to be careful.”
Thea’s boyfriend Nick is pragmatic and logical but is always willing to suspend his belief to listen to whatever wild theory Thea has cooked up in her paranoid brain.
More importantly, he encourages her to break down her theories to the facts so she can more clearly analyse if her theories hold weight.
While being logical in a challenging situation is incredibly useful, Nick is also empathetic and always does his best to make sure Thea is looking after herself. He tries to look out for her without stomping all over her independence, which I appreciate.
I am thinking about the question she asked—Will you hold me for a second?—the ease with which she asked for help and the ease with which I not only could do what she asked, but also needed what she asked for. I hope no one ever tells Gladys about basements and keys.
Gladys is just the sweetest, most precious friend a girl could have. But she’s also sharp and fiercely protective too.
It would have been so easy to make her one or the other, but instead, we get a well rounded snarky, soft best friend who is trying her best to support and help Thea while also being heartbroken at losing her friend too.
“Swear,” he says. “Swear to me right now that your dad never hurt you. That you’re telling us the whole truth. Swear you won’t protect him over yourself.”
I am careful not to blink. “Never, Tank. Never.”
Tank is kind of guy you want in your corner. He’s all emotion and he just gets it.
He feels everything Thea is feeling with her and I can guarantee he would burn the whole world down if it meant protecting the people he loves. He knows what his friends need in the moment and gives it to them no matter how crazy it might seem.
Other than Aulus, I think I have the biggest soft spot for Tank. He’s so endearing and passionate and protective that it’s hard not to love him. In a way, he reminded me of Ronan from The Raven Cycle, ya know, if Ronan wasn’t an asshole and let himself show how much he actually gives a shit.
Say what you want about my dad, he’s got vision and tenacity. I’ve loved those qualities, coveted them, but now . . . they feel like shadows on a moonlit walk. Maybe nothing. Maybe wolves.
One last character I want to focus on is Don, Thea’s father.
He’s set up as the town’s ‘crazy guy’ and for the longest time, I was wondering why everyone is always labelling him crazy??? I didn’t get it.
So he decided to build a castle? If you have the means why the fuck not??? Is he super focused on it and in turn neglecting his daughter? Sure! But that doesn’t make him crazy, that just makes him a bad parent.
Uhhh…. Raise your hand if you have issues with hyper fixation.
I mean, I still wouldn’t call him crazy, he’s simply a man with a vision, hyperfixation and terrible parenting instincts.
It’s always this way for me: class five emotions followed by deep cravings for intimacy followed by fear. I don’t know if it’s that way for everyone else or if I just have a talent for whiplash.
On top of some great, dynamic characters, The June Boys builds incredibly intricate friendships and family dynamics.
The relationships between all these characters were complex and fascinating and felt incredibly real.
The details of each relationship aren’t handed to us on a silver platter, they’re slowly threaded through the story with fine silk, weaving a spiderweb-like blanket of connections between the people of Wildwood.
Does it really matter which of my father figures is the Thief? I’m fatherless anyway.
Something I really appreciated was how The June Boys highlights issues surrounding neglect.
A lot of people fail to see just how damaging neglect can be on the lowest end of the scale. Sure Thea is fed and clothed and has a roof over her head but she doesn’t have a father or mother to run to when she’s struggling and hurting and that’s been the case for her for a long time.
Aulus spent his life missing a father who didn’t deserve him, clinging to any father figure he could find to fill the gap.
These kinds of cases of neglect are often forgotten and brushed off. A lot of the times they’re not recognised as abuse at all and I appreciate The June Boys for shining a light on that.
I’ve made the text white because it wouldn’t let me keep the formatting I wanted if I put it under a toggle menu so if you want to read it just highlight it. If you don’t want to know the big reveal don’t fucking read it.
Monsters don’t always look like monsters on the outside, and maybe they’re not always monsters, but this is a horrific thing Ruby has done, and done, and done, and done. Boys are dead.
On the other end of the spectrum, the boys who are kidnapped are kidnapped because they’re being neglected and Ruby, as someone who’s experienced the worst type of abuse and neglect, sees what’s happening to them and wants to fix it.
She’s taking these boys away from parents she feels don’t deserve them so that they’ll appreciate their sons and treat them well once they get them back. Even if it means risking having to severely neglect them, worse than their parents did, in the process of trying not to get caught.
It’s super fucked up but I get the logic behind it. And The June Boys does a great job of showing why that would make sense to Ruby and at the same time not at all supporting her actions.
“You’re the daughter of the prime suspect. Nothing good will come from other victims’ families laying eyes on you.”
I hold in the building scream: I am a victim’s family member!
The only reason this book isn’t 5 stars for me is because it didn’t give me that unstoppable drive to find out what happens next. I still was anxious to know but I didn’t have that hunger for it like I have with other thrillers.
But despite that, this book had a lot of stand-outs and for me the ones I’ll remember most are the characters, their relationships with each other and the way it handled neglect and abuse.
Each character was so fleshed out and real that I never questioned if there were people like them that existed in the real world. The relationships were fascinating and I loved slowly discovering each connection. And The June Boys really highlighted how damaging all levels of neglect can be for a person.
My dad has two children: me and this castle.
And maybe three more in a basement and another nine he cast aside in Tennessee?
*Taken from Goodreads.
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Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with an advanced reader copy in exchange for my honest review.
Grey Recommends – YA Books To Keep You on the Edge of Your Seat!
🍃 Sadie, YA Mystery: This story follows two people. The most important person is Sadie. 19 years old and on the hunt for the man who she knows killed her little sister.
🍃 Dangerous Girls, YA thriller: Dangerous Girls takes a hard look at the treatment of those accused of something as disturbing as murdering their best friend, how the media plays a huge role in our opinions of who is guilty or innocent and how easy it is for a person to look like an extreme version of one or the other. Perception is everything.
🍃 Genuine Fraud, YA thriller: Imogen is a runaway heiress, an orphan, a cook, and a cheat.
Jule is a fighter, a social chameleon, and an athlete.
An intense friendship. A disappearance. A murder, or maybe two.*
That was a Wildwood ride!
See what I did there????
🔖 If you would like a FREE Phone Wallpaper that I created with quotes from this book you can find two here.
Have you read The June Boys?
What’s your fave YA thriller?