Thursday, 10 February 2011
Review: Almost True by Keren David
Publisher: Frances Lincoln
Released: September 2nd, 2010
Grade rating: A-
Ruthless killers are hunting Ty so the police move him and his mum to a quiet seaside town. But a horrific attack and a bullet meant for Ty prove that he’s not safe. On the road again, Ty’s in hiding with complete strangers . . . who seem to know a lot about him. Meanwhile he’s desperate to see his girlfriend Claire, and terrified that she may betray him. Ty can’t trust his own judgement and he’s making dangerous decisions that could deliver him straight to the gangsters.
Almost True is the sequel to When I Was Joe, a brilliant, important book about knife crime and how it affects families and victims. These books have been critically acclaimed by almost everyone, and it's praise that is very well-deserved. Keren David kind of came out of nowhere early last year, quickly taking readers by storm and building a huge fan base for herself. She's so good at what she does, and her writing seems almost effortless.
I read When I Was Joe and Almost True about a year apart, and I'd forgotten just how easy it is to fall back into Ty's world. I think this is largely due to the quality of writing and ease of the prose; once you start reading, it's very hard to stop. Each character in these books is so realistic, they could easily be someone you know or are acquainted with. There are no ridiculously over the top shoot-outs or gang life, instead what you get is a family trying their bets to stay alive and out of the limelight. It's such a hard way to live, and I'm pretty sure I couldn't do it. I'd constantly be looking over my shoulder and worrying that the Witness Protection Program had failed. I couldn't live like that.
Almost True carries on where When I Was Joe left off, but now Ty and his mum are in a new town. Tragedy strikes again, and they find themselves on the run, just like before. A family of gangsters are trying to stop Ty from testifying against them in court, and they are relentless. Rather than run away scared, Ty just deals with it. It's a testament to his character that he faces the danger head-on, and won't be forced to change his statement or lie in court. He has copious amounts of courage, and really is an inspiration to everyday people in similar situations.
Due to its subject matter, Almost True isn't by any means an easy read. Violence and murder are par for the course in Ty's life, and the realisation that things like this actually happen in the world, and are happening right now, is one of the scariest aspects of unravelling this story. It's a compelling read, though I did marginally prefer When I Was Joe. I think the shock of the first book, and it being one of the first to tackle knife crime in this way, slightly elevated its impact on me.
Almost True is no less terrifying, and is just as well written and addictive as the first book. As I said in my When I Was Joe review last year, I still think everyone, especially in schools, should be introduced to Ty's story. I'm positive it would have a knock-on effect, and would show students that knife crime can happen anywhere, to anyone. Awareness is key, and that's what Keren David brings to the table here. Well done to her.