Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Review: When I Was Joe by Keren David


Publisher: Frances Lincoln
Format: Paperback
Released: January 7th, 2010
Grade rating: A


Amazon summary:

When Ty witnesses a stabbing, his own life is in danger from the criminals he s named, and he and his mum have to go into police protection. Ty has a new name, a new look and a cool new image life as Joe is good, especially when he gets talent spotted as a potential athletics star, special training from an attractive local celebrity and a lot of female attention. But his mum can t cope with her new life, and the gangsters will stop at nothing to flush them from hiding. Joe s cracking under extreme pressure, and then he meets a girl with dark secrets of her own.

Review:

When I Was Joe isn't an easy book to read, based on the harrowing and all-too-realistic subject matter. It's honest and raw without being unbelievable or over-exaggerated, and packs a punch that'll leave you mulling it over for days

Main character Ty, who, after being placed in the witness protection programme, is forced to change his name to Joe, is a very strong character. He's instantly likeable, and this bodes well when it comes to sympathising with him and his unfortunate situation. Even after he becomes Joe and his personality changes, he's still a typical teenager with everyday, mundane issues to deal with. He never lets anyone in, and deals with his isolation remarkably well.

His budding friendship with successful paraplegic Ellie is both comforting and worrying. There's always the chance he'll get a bit too close to her and slip up, revealing his real name or previous life. It's like he's constantly walking on eggshells that can never, ever be broken or disturbed. Living with such fear and secrecy is hard and demanding, and author Keren David never fails to hammer that point home.

Though the rest of the characters are all well-written and engaging, none of them stand out quite like Ty. It's the only complaint I have about this novel, which just goes to show that nothing is perfect. Maybe it's because they're not as endearing, or perhaps it's because Ty overshadows everything going on around him. He successfully carries the whole novel, and even if he was the only character featured in the story, I don't think it would have made a difference. Ty's mum Nicki is a particular highlight, and her struggles with her new life are often heartbreaking. She knows her old life could be lost forever and, armed with that knowledge, she tries to carry on moving forward to the best of her ability.

Knife crime is a frightening violence that is rife in many parts of the UK, and is something that just can't be ignored. While all cases might not be as extreme as Ty's, it does happen, and innocent people's lives are ruined, altered and forever changed. Keren David addresses this issue with the utmost severity, and never glorifies life as a main witness to a crime. Without books like these, people could very easily forget what's happening right under their noses; even as close to home as the school their child attends. For that reason alone, When I Was Joe should be read, enjoyed and learned from by everyone. It's never too late to pay attention.

15 comments:

Liz said...

Fantastic review - I'm really looking forward to reading it.

Luisa at Chicklish said...

Oh, I loved this book. It's really great to read your thoughts on it!

Thao said...

Woah that sounds so awesome. Hard to read but captivating still.

Book Snob said...

This book sounds really interesting. Great review!

LovesSam said...

Amazing review, I wish more people would write stories about just how much knife crime is affecting the UK at the moment, its a constant that just doesn't seem to be ending. It's good to know that the witnessing of a crime isn't glorified and that someone has managed to put into words how much it can affect someone's life by just plainly being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or maybe just getting stuck in the wrong crowd. This isn't something that I personally would read, but I really hope other people do, and realise just how close to homes these crimes are happening, and how they can destroy peoples lives in a split second. Fantastic review Jenny, my little book rock star :-)

I Want To Read That said...

I can't wait to read this one - you make it sound amazing:)

So Many Books, So Little Time said...

Fantastic review, Jenny! I really loved this and agree that it should be read and enjoyed by everyone.

MichieBee said...

This was an awesome review. I had never heard of this book before now, but I'll definitely be looking into it. :)

Lauren said...

I'm so looking forward to reading this. I was a little apprehensive about the subject matter at first but I've read so many amazing reviews - including this one - that it's become a must-read.

Liking the new rating system by the way - it adds to the review in a subtle way, without taking attention away from what you're saying.

Just Your Typical Book Blog said...

I've never heard of this one, but it sounds like one I'd really enjoy. I'll have to look on amazon to try and find a copy. Thanks for the review!

Jill of The O.W.L. said...

Thanks for the review. This is the second good review I've read. I think I'll be looking for this book.

Becky said...

What an awesome review! I love the way you explain Ty's experiences so clearly. He certainly propels the narrative forward. I think this book is exceptional as you know.

Steph Su said...

Ooh ooh ooh! I've heard great things about this book, and an A rating? This is going on the list of UK books that I will eventually acquire. :) Thanks for the fantastic review!

Figment said...

I'm glad that you mentioned the problem of knife fighting in the UK. Just because a book is a work of fiction and a work of YA fiction doesn't mean it can't raise awareness about legitimate problems.

If anyone is interested in reading the first two chapters of WHEN I WAS JOE for free, we are hosting them on our beta site which you can join at www.figment.com

Anonymous said...

I'm in the middle of reading this book. It's on the long list for the Redbridge Children's Book Award 2011. I really do hope that it's short listed and maybe even win at the Awards Ceremony on 7th July 2011!