Sadie has always been the responsible sister, the one who had a plan and was going to make something of her life. But when her older sister, Carla, puts them in a situation where they’re in the wrong place at the wrong time – Sadie takes the fall. What should have been community service turns into six months in ‘juvie’, and Sadie’s carefully planned future starts to unravel.
Comparisons with ‘Orange is the New Black’ will be inevitable, but Juvie stands out as an example of gritty contemporary YA. Sadie’s lack of freedom and control is emphasised the moment she enters juvie, and it’s the little things that are most horrifying: eye contact is forbidden; the need for constant permission, even to talk; and how one person’s actions, deliberate or otherwise, can have repercussions for all in her group. The power dynamics of Sadie’s group are an intriguing reflection on their lack of freedom.
This is a novel about sisters at its heart, as Sadie struggles with the justified anger she feels towards Carla, along with her loss of freedom, family, and potential future. She also struggles with retaining her sense of self in a system designed to keep her controlled and contained. The flashbacks show Sadie’s old life and how she reached this point, an interesting contrast as Sadie learns to adapt to and navigate her new world, naturally changing because of it.