When I Was Joe

When I Was Joe

4.6 3
by Keren David

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A superb and exciting debut teen novel exploring knife crime and witness protection by an outstanding new author.

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A superb and exciting debut teen novel exploring knife crime and witness protection by an outstanding new author.

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

Lincoln, Frances Limited
Publication date:
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
File size:
561 KB
Age Range:
13 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

School is the only place where I feel calm. Everywhere

else I'm looking out for exploding shops and heavies

bursting from the shadows. It's completely exhausting

because nothing actually ever happens, so I'm wasting

tons of energy watching and worrying.

But once I go through the school gates I feel better.

No one can find me here. I'm camouflaged among

hundreds of other kids all dressed the same. It's not

like London where everyone looks different. In the

playground, pretty much everyone is the same colour,

has the same sort of look. I never even knew you could

be this invisible.

My invisibility doesn't hold up in the classroom

though. My class is full of babies. The boy who sits

on my left - Max - is about seven inches smaller than

me, and his voice is as high as James Blunt's. The girl

in front of me - Claire - is even smaller. She looks like

an eight-year-old who's borrowed a uniform five sizes

too big for her.

I'd been quite interested in the idea of sharing

a classroom with girls. But even the ones who look

thirteen seem incredibly young. There're only one or two

who make a real effort with make up and stuff.

Among this lot I really stick out. I'm the tallest.

I sometimes look like I might need to shave. I know

everything - it's so helpful that St Saviour's was

unbelievably strict and made us work so hard. Redoing

year eight is a breeze. A boring one.

Today I'm dozing in English class, thinking about

a picture I once saw in a magazine of a woman member

of a tribe somewhere in Indonesia. Her left hand had

only two fingers; the rest had been hacked off, one finger

for every family member she'd lost. It was her tribe's way

of remembering the dead. I can't see it catching on in

England, but right now I think it's got possibilities.

People would know something about you right from the

start, without asking questions. So you never forget,

and you carry the truth on your body.

Some losses don't really deserve a whole finger

though. When my dad left, I was only about two and he

just kind of faded out of my life. Now he's gone forever,

I suppose. He'd never find us even if he looked.

Maybe he's worth a little toe. What about losing a friend?

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. 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 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 UK 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. Her other titles for Frances Lincoln are Almost True, Another Life and Lia's Guide to Winning the Lottery (9781847801913).

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When I Was Joe 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
MJohansen More than 1 year ago
Good Fast-Paced Story When I was Joe is a fast-paced story with lots of twist and turns. It is a good book but the ending was a little confusing for me. It was a good book and I would recommend it to a friend, but if you get lost in books easily, I would not recommend this particular book for you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Best book ever I recomend this to everyone who loves a thriller, heart stopper, mystery and with if coarse the love story! Though I wouldnt say the lov is the main part throughout the story!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago