When Jeff Comes Home Summary
This novel, about the kidnapping and sexual abuse of a young teenage boy, is reputedly based on the true story of Steven Stayner, a California teen who was kidnapped in 1972 and returned to his parents in 1980. In Atkins's book, thirteen-year-old Jeff Hart and his family are at a roadside rest stop when a disturbed man named Ray kidnaps the boy at knife-point and then abuses him both physically and psychologically for the next two and a half years. The story begins after Jeff has returned home, but Atkins reveals the feelings of anguish, terror, and humiliation he continues to experience as he remembers what happened during his time with Ray. The book not only focuses on Jeff's struggle to find himself, but it focuses on the struggle of Jeff's father, who becomes so driven to heal his son that he creates serious rifts in his family. Atkins's descriptions of the painful emotions people feel in situations as dire as this one makes this book a heart wrenching portrait of child abduction and sexual abuse and their lasting effects. Though Jeff was returned to his family, Atkins describes the boy's attempts to readjust to a "normal" life, to deal with the questions and assumptions of others, and to come to terms with what happened to him during the terrifying ordeal that robbed his innocence and changed him forever.