The Packing House is a YA novel that follows the main character, 17-year-old Joel Scrivener. He’s prone to nightmares and each one is similar. He doesn’t know what they mean at first, but they leave him unable to sleep.
So begins our journey with Joel. G. Donald did a fantastic job of drawing the reader in with his fantastic writing. Each scene pops and it feels like the reader is in every scene with the MC. You can feel the MCs fear, pain, and unease. And even though I haven’t been 17 for a LONG time, I could identify with the MC almost immediately.
As the story progresses, Joel continues to decline mentally. He’s initially written as “the good kid”, but as the nightmares continue and he loses sleep, his behavior goes downhill as well. He soon runs away from home.
Through the story, he corresponds with a friend of his from out of state. It’s clear that he has feelings for her but isn’t sure how to act on them. When he tells her he ran away, she’s surprised and isn’t sure what to think. Joel is eventually found and ends up back at home.
Upon his return, he’s forced into meetings with his mother and the guidance counselor at school. As a result of the meetings, it’s decided that he should live with family out of state. He is one of two sons of a single mother and she’s having a hard time dealing with his new behavior problems. His mother has also moved to escape an abusive boyfriend.
Once Joel is with his Grandmother, the nightmares continue. He is also reunited with his friend, with whom he’s been writing and whom he clearly likes. They have an awkward first meeting in the cafeteria. It turns out she’s already dating and doesn’t like how Joel has changed.
As the book continues, Joel starts to piece together his nightmares and the truth is soon revealed. Once he realizes what the nightmares are from, he tells family. The meeting with his family is one of the best written scenes I’ve seen in a while. The procedures for telling what happened and who did it are spot on. And tension, the emotions, it’s all there. For anyone who’s walked in Joel’s shoes, you know what that initial moment is like. And hearing that nothing can be done…my heart broke with his
If you’re a victim of any kind of abuse but especially sexual abuse, you need to read this book. It can be triggering to some but it shows the strength and courage of the survivor. It takes a lot of strength to tell the story he told and it’s hard as hell to tell the story more than once. For survivors, for those who love and are friends or significant others with survivors, this book is a must read.
The Packing House is available in both paperback and e-book format.