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WHEN I WAS JOE by Keren David

WHEN I WAS JOE

By Keren David

Age Range: 12 & up

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2010
ISBN: 978-1-84580-131-9
Publisher: Frances Lincoln

When 14-year-old Ty witnesses a brutal murder involving neighborhood thugs, he and his mom are put into a witness-protection program in a small town far away from their East London home. Now named Joe, Ty enters a new school a year behind and finds himself haunted by his past and torn between two girls: Ellie, a physically disabled teen who trains able-bodied runners, and her sister, Ashley. Despite lots of Briticisms and the occasional longwinded spells of narration, David pens a mostly fast-moving page-turner. Her characterizations feel mostly fully fleshed, and their dialogue rings true. The staunchly un-Americanized text results in some odd, culturally specific references that could confuse some readers unfamiliar with the milieu: Kissing Ashley makes Ty's body sizzle like sausages in a pan, for instance. The contemplative pages within the blood-spattered cover may disappoint readers more drawn to gore than to the self-reflection the experience renders in Ty. However, if teens can move past these speed bumps, they’ll find a complex, engaging read about a boy starting a new life by escaping his past. (Thriller. 12 & up)