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The Car Thief

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Meet Kelly Morgan. He has one foot in child welfare. One foot in juvenile justice. Both feet in trouble.

Meet Sam Murry. He lives a quiet, orderly existence, alone-just how he likes it. But when a judge sends a skinny, young kid to be in his charge, that life gets turned inside out, leaving his heart uncomfortably and irretrievably exposed.

What happens when not just a decent kid, but an extraordinary one falls into the clutches of the juvenile justice system. Debut novelist, Vicki Reed, relies on decades spent working in the field to craft this inspiring story of loss and redemption. A powerful novel that shows how the transformative power of friendship, kindness, and love can heal the deepest wounds.

400 pages, Paperback

First published April 21, 2020

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About the author

V. Reed

1 book7 followers
Vicki Reed hails from the "Horse Capitol of the World", Lexington, Ky, where she lives with her husband and son. She combined her love for horse, nature, and kids in trouble to create her first novel, The Car Thief. With a degree in Law Enforcement and a Masters in Criminal Justice, she has spent decades in the juvenile justice field working as line staff in detention, a probation officer, and as the director of a private agency where she opened an emergency shelter for public offender boys. Eventually, she moved into government and as a Director with the Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) helped implement a system of state-wide juvenile detention centers with a range of non-secure options. As the head of DJJ's Classification Division she championed the use of therapeutic foster care rather than institutionalization.

She currently serves as Executive-Director of the Ky Juvenile Justice Initiative, a youth advocacy group. Vicki is working on her follow-up novel, Sleight of Hand, and a non-fiction book, Paper Monsers, about Ky's use of therapeutic foster care with delinquent youth.

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5 stars
128 (75%)
4 stars
37 (21%)
3 stars
4 (2%)
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Displaying 1 - 27 of 27 reviews
Profile Image for Lauren.
185 reviews16 followers
December 13, 2021
As a parent, this story had me going through a roller coaster of emotions.  Kelly's story showcases the struggles of a youth in the system and the difference a little more help or effort can make. Vicki Reed's book fosters hope and inspires readers to be proactive in helping those children that are stuck in the system.
Profile Image for Sallie Dunn.
555 reviews37 followers
February 25, 2022
Super easy to read and sheds a lot of light as to how the juvenile justice system works (and often doesn’t work that well.). I would think that a large number of people in the justice system would think this books paints an unrealistic picture of a youthful offender. The plot itself was heartwarming and the characters well developed. The ending was a tad on the floofy side, but I did really enjoy this book.

The 52 Book Club Reading Challenge - 2022
Prompt #26 - Has an “Author’s Note.”
1 review
August 25, 2020
I read The Car Thief for book club, not expecting to be so caught up in it I couldn’t put it down. It is a novel, fiction, but factually based on the author’s personal experience in the juvenile justice systems in the USA. She weaves the facts and fictional characters so well I never felt like skipping ahead to find out what happened next. The facts about the juvenile system and courts in different states are presented to show the extreme consequences probable, and how to avoid them. The book is very well written as well as being an intriguing novel with heart-wrenching characters. I highly recommend it for everyone, but especially for anyone who works with or parents young people. So enjoyable to read...can’t wait for her next book.
L. Swisher
1 review
May 8, 2020
In this fast paced, easy to read novel, author Vicki Reed vividly shows us how any kid, given the right circumstances, can go from child orphan to teenage felon, in a heartbeat. In her book, The Car Thief, author Reed tackles a very serious social problem with wit and humor, and it works. Sometimes heartbreaking and sometimes heartwarming, this is an entertaining book from cover to cover. If you like a good story with developed characters that you can touch and feel, you will like this book. And, you might just learn something about the juvenile justice system in our country along the way.
24 reviews1 follower
March 19, 2021
I started reading it because I joined a book club on CJJ. I had no idea what the book was about. I got into it immediately. It was face paced and got my attention because I work in the juvenile justice field. I was surprised at how accurate the information was; that a fictional book had real information and examples of things that happen every day. It wasn't until the end that I realized that V.Reed knows exactly what she's talking about because she's been there and done that! Excellent book! I'd recommend for anyone but if you work with juvenile you, especially, should read this!
1 review
July 14, 2020
I usually prefer to read non-fiction but thoroughly enjoyed this novel and learned a whole lot about the. criminal justice system along the journey, thanks to Kelly, the young and engaging protagonist. The adults in the book and their stories were equally compelling. Every time I thought I knew how things would turn out, there was another twist and turn until the story's satisfying conclusion. Highly recommend.
Profile Image for Connie.
5 reviews
May 31, 2020
The Car Thief is a great book. It was hard for me to put it down.
1 review
March 5, 2021
You would never believe that Vicki Reed is a first time author. Car Thief is an easy read with wonderful characters and a realistic look into the juvenile justice system. Highly recommend!
1 review
May 31, 2020
This book captured me from the first page. It was fast paced and I could never figure out the next plot twist, and there were a lot. Well written, with lots of humor and plenty of heart, I enjoyed every minute, and learned a lot. Vicki Reed has a great ear for dialog and for description. The characters ring true.
I loved this book!
29 reviews
August 14, 2020
I did like this book, the only reason I didn’t give it 5 stars was because it seemed too good to be true and had a cookie cutter ending.
Still, it was interesting to learn about the foster care and juvenile justice system and it was well researched. For a first time author, I think she has a lot of potential and look forward to reading more from her.
Profile Image for Trudy Zufelt.
109 reviews1 follower
November 12, 2021
At age 11, Kelly Morgan becomes an orphan when he loses his father in an accident. He is sent away from his home in Wyoming to live in the East with a grandfather who doesn't want or love him. Kelly tries running from his pain, living on the streets and hiding from the law. When he is picked up and sent into the foster care system, he tries running again.

When he steals a car to try to get "home" he is caught and put into the juvenile justice system. Kelly isn't a violent offender but an extraordinary young man with a bright mind. It will take the right people in the system to see him for what he is and try to save him.

Because of his crimes, Kelly is moved from the juvenile system, charged as an adult and sent to a work camp to be rehabilitated. Lucky for him, Sam Murry is the man overseeing the workers. He's also a man with a big enough heart not to send Kelly to live with the men twice his age and keeps him close to oversee his sentence. Besides Sam, Kelly has others inside the system working hard for him. With his resilience and those working behind the scenes, can this one be saved?

Author Vicki Reed uses her experience working in the juvenile system to bring realism. love and redemption in a story that pulls at the reader's heartstrings. It's a gritty and soulful look into the juvenile justice and foster system.

I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway.
454 reviews10 followers
February 22, 2022

I was drawn in from the first sentence. This book kept me awake at night trying to read just one more chapter, then another… On the surface it’s a story about a boy that loses his entire family. In reality, it’s about the major flaws in our legal system, the definitions of “home” and “family”, forgiveness, acceptance, child rearing, letting go of the past and so much more. I loved the main character, Kelly. I wanted so bad for everything to work out in his favor. When he hurt, I hurt. When he was happy, I was happy. Absolutely amazing!

Profile Image for Barb.
1,278 reviews14 followers
January 23, 2022
One of the best books I ever read. Dad and uncle dies in car accident, then has to live with mean grandfather, runs away and the trouble starts. This boy is such a good kid. I can't say enough about this book. What kids go through in juvenile court. This is a 10 Star.
Profile Image for Amy.
108 reviews
March 1, 2022
Such a good book

I really enjoyed this book. I wasn't sure what to expect but the author sucked me in and I had to keep reading to find out what would happen next.
286 reviews1 follower
January 19, 2022
much to think about

The story of Kelly tugs at the heart strings. So many young kids make poor choices and end up paying a high price. This is the story of one who is rescued from the child protective services and the juvenile justice system. He is a lucky one.
January 19, 2022
This is a happy reader

This is a very well written book. It keeps your interest throughout. It is really an eye opener as to what all goes on in the judicial system .
Profile Image for Debbie.
189 reviews9 followers
April 2, 2022
A 5 star rating? Yes and yes,it was so well deserved that I am writing a review.

Kelly Morgan is a boy that, through no fault of his own, gets embroiled in the foster care system. And that is all I will say about that because the emotional roller-coaster this took me on was so very unexpected.

While the book is fiction, parts of it were based on real life situations and it broke my heart. I think a spotlight needs to be shined on the foster care system and a lot of things needs to be re-evaluated.

I found myself at times frowning at my Kindle and other times tears were leaking from my eyes involuntarily. I am glad that the book had a happy ending but this is not the case for so many kids in the system and I wish that was different.

~The end~

Profile Image for Michael E Lucas.
40 reviews1 follower
March 13, 2022
This book will grab you by the heart. Don't just bring a kleenex, bring the box.
You are a 12-year-old boy. Your mother died when you were 3. You wake up one morning and all is well with your life but by bedtime, you are an orphan, and then your life really goes to hell.
23 reviews
December 31, 2021
This is a beautiful story. I cried as a sweet little guy faced horrendous times in the justice system. He was so lucky to meet some kind adults who helped him leave prison and onto an awesome life. This my favorite book from 2021 and I highly recommend it to anyone who loves children.
Profile Image for Sue Goodenough.
24 reviews
January 28, 2022
The best book I've read lately. Very enlightening about youth offenders and how they are treated. Makes a person want to help, and I think I will.
Profile Image for Jane Bennington.
142 reviews3 followers
September 22, 2021
This book had my mind and emotions all over the place, which I love. Several of the fictional locations closely resemble real spots in central KY. The author brings her vast insider knowledge of the Juvenile justice system to bear in the book, with perfection. Following the harrowing journey of one child through the justice system was heart wrenching, but ultimately rewarding. If you've never delved into any part of the system from the inside, this is a great place to start. And then do some further reading!
230 reviews
October 11, 2021
I have worked in and with the juvenile justice system for 13 years. This book is amazing. Not only does the author clearly know her stuff, the book is powerful in showing all the ways a person (or people) can make a difference in a juvenile's life. This book also does a great job of showing why "getting tough" with juveniles cannot only be counterproductive but cause more problems. Every adult should read this book.
Profile Image for Sandra Burns.
1,701 reviews22 followers
September 10, 2021
Fictional, but based on facts.

Young boy, was in a car accident. His Dad. Uncle and dog died. He was Injured. Sent to PA, to live with an abusive Grandfather, he ran away. He was twelve. Finally, he was caught and went into the juvenile system. Then, jail. He was 14. Eventually he got a break. Was sent to a place, with no bars. Things started looking up. Great read!
94 reviews
January 26, 2023
This fictional story, written by the current executive director of the Kentucky Juvenile Justice Initiative in Kentucky, follows one young boy along his journey in the foster care and the juvenile justice systems. The author creates an emotional and realistic portrayal of the seriously flawed and broken juvenile systems that can have dire consequences for already troubled youth. The heart-wrenching journey of the young protagonist, Kelly, had me flipping pages long past my bedtime. I was thrilled when caring adults within the system fought the status quo and found a way to help Kelly. The ending was almost too story-book (hence only 4 of 5 stars), but after Kelly's journey, I needed it! This book is a must-read for parents, teachers, counselors, and anyone who has a soft spot for troubled children/teens.

Profile Image for Doris Quigley.
9 reviews4 followers
September 28, 2022
Should be mandatory reading for everyone

I had tears in my eyes many times while reading as I remembered kids and teens that I used to know. Some of them had good outcomes and some of them became prostitutes, long term felons, drug addicts, or dead.

It is a sad commentary on society and the juvenile non-justice systems that are in equipped to treat juveniles as kids.

Read this book.
1,444 reviews11 followers
February 15, 2022
An eye opener

Though this has been tagged as fiction; is it really! Not really. It was very emotional at times, sad, heart wrenching as well as heart warming. This story actually proves that the system is broken. Very enlightening read.
August 31, 2022
Powerful story that kept me on the edge of my seat. Fascinating , frustrating, and and maddening to watch the juvenile justice system at work. But the characters and their development are the key to this book. Once I started it, I couldn't wait to pick it up again.
Displaying 1 - 27 of 27 reviews

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