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 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 the 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 was slowing down my reading just to keep these characters alive. The author’s unflinching and courageous effort to tell this story of innocence destroyed, in full, 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, as a read, is a testament to this author’s abilities and I look for much more from him in the future.