My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Time taken to read - 3 days
Publisher - Avon
Pages - 324
Blurb From Goodreads
His name was Kevin but his keepers called him Zoo Boy. He didn't talk. He hid under tables and surrounded himself with a cage of chairs. He hadn't been out of the building in the four years since he'd come in. He was afraid of water and wouldn't take a shower. He was afraid to be naked, to change his clothes. He was nearly 16.
Desperate to see change in the boy, the staff of Kevin's adolescent treatment center hired Hayden. As Hayden read to him and encouraged him to read, crawling down into his cage of chairs with him, Kevin talked. Then he started to draw and paint and showed himself to have a quick wit and a rolling, seething, murderous hatred for his stepfather.
Kevin is 15 years old, cowering under a table when Torey first meets him, called Zoo Boy for the behaviors he exhibits and his self built cage of chairs and tables. He is afraid of everything, assumed to have a low IQ, a sketchy abusive past and talks to no one. When Torey starts to break down the barriers, Kevin begins to become more of a person than "an animal" and allows Torey glimpses of the boy he is. A long and arduous journey begins for Kevin, to face his past and all the things that terrify him and Torey finds herself faced with possibly one of her biggest challenges yet.
I have read a few of Torey Hayden's books and they can be really hard going, abuse, horror, violence and poverty being just a few of the issues. This one is no different and does cover some horrifying subjects however the bulk of the focus is on Kevin and his journey. It is quite emotional to see this poor child transform from an elective mute and try and face his demons. The processes involved and the red tape around establishments, care available and employers homophobic attitudes toward employees, it is really interesting how some systems work.
There is another child in the story, Charity who is 8 years old, brought to Torey through the big sister project, a little girl with a big attitude and a poor family. Torey splits her time between the two and the reader gets to see the positive influence, love, time and effort can have on two very different children and the impact it can have on them. Whilst some of the story is sad, hard going and plucks a few heart strings it is a story that restores faith in someone who does her job and really cares about the children than come into her care, however brief. Hayden writes very well and covers some horrific topics in a sensitive manner so 4/5 for me this time.