Fiction - Drama
Kindle Edition
Reviewed on 09/01/2020
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Lex Allen for Readers' Favorite

Skids by Jeremy Houghton introduces a group of young castaways struggling to survive on the streets of Las Vegas, Nevada. A small group of street children (family) is led by James, an eighteen-year-old, eight-year veteran of street life and survival. This family’s story is narrated by James as a sad memoir of child abuse, trafficking, prostitution, and survival on the edges of civilization in a modern American city. Occupied with raising money through panhandling and prostitution for food and shelter, there’s little time or space for planning a better future. James, with far above average intelligence and maturity for his age, never stops working toward that goal. Acknowledging him as their leader, the family unites to follow his rules for keeping clean, drug-free and safe while the perpetrators of their lost innocence and family normalcy continually attempt to prey on their minds and bodies.

There is so much truth and reality in this story that I found it hard to remember that it is fiction. The stories of James and his family, past and present, are gut-wrenching in their authenticity—this is storytelling under Stephen King’s theme that “fiction is a lie; GOOD fiction is the truth within the lie…” This is by no means a fast-paced tale; rather, it is slow in its revelations of minutiae that, in this story, are necessary to capture the insight, the profundity within. The characters are, each in their own way, reminiscent of someone you may know or have seen in the media or read about in true stories. There are scenes that will haunt you for a long time; events that will disgust, terrify, and/or shock you. You’ll alternatively cry at the injustice and hurdles placed on these children. You’ll cheer their successes, small though they may be, and moan at their setbacks as you follow Houghton’s carefully and expertly woven story, mixing past with present events that constantly lead toward a conclusion that is both satisfying and plausible. If you read only one book this year, make it Skids by Jeremy Houghton and then go out and find a way you can help street people, the homeless, of all ages, race, and gender.

Kathryn Bennett

Skids by Jeremy Houghton introduces the reader to James. A young man who, when he was the tender age of 10, ran away from home. If you can call a house of torture and abuse a home. For the last 8 years, James has called the streets home and done his best to scratch out a life of survival for himself. James makes a new family in Las Vegas, a family of street kids like him just trying to survive. When one family member's life is threatened, James will do whatever it takes to keep his family safe. Moreover, he’ll do what it takes to make a better life for all of them.

This story appealed to me right away. I have had close friends who have spent time on the streets and I understand what it means to make a new chosen family for yourself when your blood family isn’t the right place to be. James is such a compelling figure that I think many will be able to see something of themselves in him. James is many things and, above all, he is a survivor. Even if you don’t see yourself in him and his experiences, he is a character that you will feel for. He is the type of character that really invests you in a book and makes you keep reading.

At its core, this book is about survival and about finding a way to overcome the bad in life. A well-written reminder that no matter what we have been through in life, we can overcome it if we are willing to put ourselves out there again. That is the hardest part, of course, taking something on faith and learning to trust again. Whether that trust is to be put into people, general actions or even trust in ourselves. Author Jeremy Houghton has written a gripping book that made me invest in the family’s story. My only complaint is that I want it to be longer so I can spend more time lost in this story.

Tracy Young

James, Harmony, Jenna, Hunter, and Tristan are a family. They live in Las Vegas and work the streets to survive. Skids by Jeremy Houghton is their story, one of brutal childhoods and shocking beginnings. There is only a 5-year age difference between James, the oldest, and Tristan, the youngest, but they are poles apart in development. Harmony and Jenna bring in the money in summer and James and Hunter are responsible for their safety. Violence and survival are a daily element of their lives and they appreciate the basic treats that rarely come their way. When a brutal murder that impacts Jenna occurs, a reporter shows interest in the group, but will their natural mistrust allow them to let her into their lives or will they be caught up in life on the streets forever?

This is a shockingly honest view of child abuse and the impact it has on its victims. Las Vegas is a place associated with happiness and holidays, but the seedy underbelly of the city is a breeding ground for the types of people who prey on children and believe them to be a product that can be bought and sold. 'Skids' is the name used to describe street kids and Jeremy Houghton pulls no punches in his harrowing account of their daily battle to exist. The shocking statistics regarding the help available to these kids will leave you reeling. What type of a world is it when there is more help available to abandoned animals than children? This is a great read and will open your eyes to a world that should never exist but does.

Lesley Jones

In Skids by Jeremy Houghton, James was a mere 6 years old when his horrific abuse began. Sold to the highest bidder for four years, and witnessing his mother's death, James finally escaped with only a few possessions in his Barney the Dinosaur backpack. At 10 years old, the dangerous streets became his home but he learned the art of survival. James is now almost 18 and living in an old deserted building with other abuse survivors. These 'Skids', street kids, are the only people he trusts, and now together they have formed their own family and survive the unforgiving streets of Las Vegas by any means possible. James believes he can cope with anything, but when an event threatens the life of his family, James takes drastic action which changes the course of his life forever. Now James has the chance to escape the streets and take his family to safety, but can he lower his barriers and have the courage to trust people again?

Every so often, you will read a book which will stay with you long after the final page is turned. This is not an easy book to read, the subject matter is brutal and gut-wrenching. All of the main characters of 'the family' were unique individuals with strong personalities that complemented one another perfectly. Their strong bond was evident and the relationship between James and Harmony was truly heartwarming. The story of children who had their childhood taken from them is never an easy subject matter to read about, but the author has done an excellent job relaying the story with sensitivity. The dialogue was authentic and the little details, such as shopping for child-like items when they came into money, brought realism to the story. The scene which jolted my emotions the most has to be between Dante and Jenna's father. The descriptiveness of the narrative was perfect and brought the horror of the situation to life. It is shocking to realize that there are more animal shelters than places of safety for children and that this form of abuse continues to occur. I thought the ending was believable and the development of the story and relationships between all the characters was executed well. It leaves you with a sense of sadness for these children but also a reminder of the strength of the human character and how they can turn their life around from victim to victor.

Viga Boland

When we meet 17-year-old James, the narrator, and his non-blood family of two boys and two girls, James has been fending for himself since he was 10. He ran away from his wealthy father who had peddled him to his well-heeled pedophile friends since he was 6. James’ survival and eventual transition from being a garbage dump eater to a father-like figure to his street kids “family” is a wonder in itself. But if it weren’t for James, the other four “s-kids” he loves and protects wouldn’t have survived after what each of them has lived through, primarily at the hands of the adults. Readers will cringe as each of their stories unfold.

The group makes an abandoned building their home, where each abides by James’ rules for survival without numbing themselves through drugs and alcohol. They have a system in place that works, and while it still necessitates earning food money through undesirable methods, they are keeping each other alive. Each one, including James, longs for a “normal” life but their pasts have made that near impossible. So now, they cling to and trust each other, knowing each one has the other’s back. This loving family is more family than their blood families ever were.

It took me several days after I finished reading Skids by Jeremy Houghton to find words that would do justice to this beautiful, touching, but sometimes heartbreaking account of what life is like for homeless teens on the streets of Las Vegas. In short, I was so moved I was speechless. While I’d love to reveal what becomes of this group, I’m not going to. Skids needs to be read! There are millions of Skids in our world. Many we will never see, but those we do encounter daily are often judged by eyes that see only their appearances, language and actions. Skids will touch even the toughest amongst us with the sensitivity and love of children that Jeremy Houghton brings to telling this story. With an ever-evolving plot, unforgettable characters, plenty of dialogue and a heartwarming ending, Houghton has written an important book. If you care about children, make this the first one you read next.

Grant Leishman

Skids is the colloquial term used to describe street kids; such a problem in many major cities around the world and certainly one in the major gaming capital of the world, Las Vegas, Nevada. In Skids, by Jeremy Houghton, the author takes us inside the mean life that is the reality for the thousands of runaways and street kids in America. James was just six years old when his father began farming him out to people for payment and sexual abuse. By the time he was ten, James had decided to run and became just one of the many street kids trying to survive in the Las Vega underworld. Now, about to turn eighteen, James has not only survived but he has gathered a small group of similar kids around him, living together in an abandoned shopfront as “family”. Life is tough for these children forced into prostitution just to survive, but they have each other and more importantly they have each other’s backs. James and his quasi-family are as happy together as any group in that situation could ever hope to be but that doesn’t stop James dreaming of a life that doesn’t require scrabbling on the verges of society to survive. James dreams of he, Harmony and the other three kids just leading a “normal” life – that’s not too much to ask for, is it? Breaking out will not be easy though, as all five of them have an innate suspicion of adults who proffer assistance – they’ve all been burned by such people in the past.

In the past two weeks I’ve read two books that have touched me and moved me profoundly; Skids by Jeremy Houghton is one of those books. There is nothing pretty or pleasant about the disgusting trials and tribulations these innocent children have been put through and, at times, Skids is a difficult read for that very reason. The author has, however, tempered the horror and sheer abomination of what was happening to the children with the loving and beautiful relationships built up between James and his four companions. I loved the humility that the author imbued in James’ character. Yes, he was the titular leader of the group by virtue mainly of his age but his lack of confidence in himself and in his abilities gave such a vulnerable and appealing edge to him that he shone through the story. This was one of those rare reads that I just didn’t want to end. As I got close to what was clearly the finale of the story, I slowed down my reading just to keep these characters alive. The author’s unflinching and courageous effort to tell this story of innocence destroyed without pulling any punches is to be greatly admired. I can truly rank Skids as one of the best books I’ve read this year. To be able to take such a subject and make it appealing and enjoyable to read is a testament to this author’s abilities and I look forward to much more from him in the future.

Joshua Soule

“The choice of this hell was a lot better than the hell we’d come from.” Skids is the story of 18-year-old James, who shares his story as a boy having experienced unimaginable events; from being sexually exploited since the age of six, to being a runaway by the age of 10. In his efforts to survive on the streets, James has teamed up with other kids in the same boat and the bond formed has created the only real family they have ever experienced. This pseudo-family exists by using what they can to survive, primarily prostitution and panhandling for sources of income, and a nightly routine of wishing for some relief and a normal life.

Author Jeremy Houghton begins this book with a note that although parts of this book may not be easy to read, they are realistic, and he hopes that reading it will help make a difference in some of the darkness of this world. Houghton has successfully put on paper the parts of life that most people are afraid to talk about. The difficult moments, the small joys and celebrations, and the hope I felt as I read this book were very real. Despite the horrific life, it is not the end for James, as worded in the story, “I’m truly sorry. None of you should have had to end up here. That’s not what God has planned for you.” It is apparent that Houghton has experienced and witnessed struggles similar to the ones found in Skids but chose to use them as a tool to help others. Houghton even utilized a contest to design the cover, an excellent method for community involvement. I absolutely recommend reading Skids by Jeremy Houghton. An excellent book!

Sarah Stuart

The prologue of Skids by Jeremy Houghton made me want to know more, indicating a very powerful story begging to be read, and I wasn’t disappointed. James doesn’t tell us his name at first, but I felt the weight of the journal that chronicles his life pulling me back, pulling me into his life – the downside of fun-city Las Vegas. James’ journal isn’t in chronological order, so the reader meets James when he’s aged eighteen with no idea why he’s living the way he is, not literally “on the streets” but in temporary squats where the regular inmates survive on money made from prostitution, male and female – “when you become part of the darkness that darkness doesn't want to let you go.”

A ten-year-old boy is abused – tortured – until he bolts. Eight years later, he has a few friends for whom he’d give his life, many passing strangers who only take, murderous enemies, and perverts prepared to sell their own children, like Jenna who was forced into prostitution. How, given a life like that, can a man help others? How can he turn to God and believe He exists and will be your strength if you let Him? This is a story based on truth; there are huge numbers of abused children worldwide, and a promise to help before the acknowledgments. Jeremy Houghton warns readers that Skids is a challenging book, and he’s right – it is challenging, frightening, and utterly captivating, so don’t turn aside from a five-star must-read or the children.