cover image The Decomposition of Jack

The Decomposition of Jack

Kristin O’Donnell Tubb. HarperCollins/Tegen, $16.99 (208) ISBN 978-0-0632-1226-8

A self-aware seventh grader with a roadkill researcher mother ruminates on life, maturation, and decomposition in this jam-packed observational novel from O’Donnell Tubb (The Story Collector). Following his parents’ divorce, Jack Acosta spends most of his time helping his mom with her research, scraping roadkill from asphalt and recording details about recent finds, while developing an interest in photography. At school, he navigates a crush and contends with bullies who call him the Roadkill Kid. But tensions build after Jack observes a cougar from the family’s roadkill-riddled backyard, and chooses the mammal—thought to be extinct in Tennessee—for a school project. The cougar poses a “data nightmare” for his mother, who’d like to chase it off, but Jack becomes interested in confirming the animal’s presence, which results in his advocating for his own identity outside of helping his mom. Incorporating the stages of decomposition as a means of describing his parents’ divorce, Jack’s wry first-person narration highlights his own concerns and growth, changing family dynamics, and lessons around conservation. Jack reads as white; other characters are racially ambiguous. A detailed author’s note contextualizes the book’s scientific content. Ages 8–12. Agent: Josh Adams, Adams Literary. (Oct.)