When I Was Joe

When I Was Joe

4.6 3
by Keren David

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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

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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. This wonderfully gripping and intelligent novel depicts Ty/Joe's confused sense of identity in a moving and funny story that teenage boys and girls will identify with - a remarkable debut from a great new writing talent.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"An ice-cold thriller about identity, pain and veracity. . . . David writes in steely, short sentences as Joe grapples with his new school, his mother's inertia, and his own deadly secret."
Daily Telegraph (London)
Children's Literature - Patricia Williamson
Joe, formerly Ty, is in hiding with his mom after having been a witness to a brutal killing. He is a shy and unassuming fourteen-year-old who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Just as he is getting his life in order, there is a bombing at the store next to his home, and not only the store but the place he knows as home is on fire. Ty and him mom are taken in police protection and given new identities—now Joe and mum—he could not call her a new name that was not his—start a new life. Joe moves forward but things remain complicated as he defends himself and does serious damage to another boy and threatens a girl who gets too close. Will he be able to keep his identity? Joe/Ty seems to be drawn to the dark sides of life and in his need to help Claire ends up being accused of hurting her He is constantly re-evaluating his life and the only thing he finds valuable is Claire, whom he can never see again. The story is well told and the idea is engaging to any teen today, although not for the younger teen. The language, sexual innuendo and violence are a bit much for an emerging teen. In addition, the heavy British lingo may be challenging to American readers, but enough context is provided to make them understood, with some effort. Reviewer: Patricia Williamson
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—This book has an intriguing premise and a cast of likable and realistic characters. Ty, 13, is a socially inept teen who lives in the shadow of his charismatic but dangerous best friend. He is the only witness to a violent murder, and those involved will stop at nothing to silence him, forcing him and his mother to say good-bye to their old lives and join the witness-protection program. All of a sudden, nobody Ty becomes cool, athletic somebody Joe at his new school, but no hair dye or wardrobe change can erase the terrifying memories that haunt him. David creates a tense thriller that leads readers further into Ty's psyche, where there are many secrets hiding. At the same time Ty has become interested in girls and loves basking in the glow of his newly discovered talent at running. David handles a plot that could have been overly melodramatic with a subtle and deft hand. Especially impressive is the way she deals with Ty's many relationships. His mother is bored, misses her mother and sisters, and begins drinking; well-meaning but suspicious police officers appear often, not sure they believe Ty's story, and he has made new friends, particularly Claire. Then he is discovered and must be relocated again. The novel closes with a letter to Claire confessing a secret that will have teens clamoring to know more. Ty's story doesn't so much end as just stop, leaving readers still in the dark as to who is after the teen and whether he will survive. The book concludes with the first chapter of the sequel, Almost True.—Shari Fesko, Southfield Public Library, MI
Kirkus Reviews
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)

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Product Details

Frances Lincoln Children's Books
Publication date:
Edition description:
Revised Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.25(w) x 7.87(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
13 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Keren David was brought up in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, and went to school in Hatfield. She left school at 18 and got a job as a messenger girl on a newspaper, then turned down a place to read English at university to take an apprenticeship as a junior reporter. She was freelancing as a reporter on the old Fleet Street by her mid-twenties and, after living and working in Scotland for two years, was appointed as a news editor on The Independent at the age of 27. She worked at The Independent for six years, moving from news to become a commissioning editor on the Comment pages. She and her family then went to live in Amsterdam for eight years where she was editor in chief of a photo-journalism agency. On returning to the U.K. in 2007 she decided to attend a course on writing for children at the City University. When I Was Joe started out as a project for that course. She lives in London with her husband and two children.

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