Review Blog

Apr 08 2010

When I was Joe by Keren David

cover image

Frances Lincoln Books, 2010. ISBN 978 1847801005.
Ty's life, as well as those around him; his mother and gran, changes dramatically when he witnesses a murder. He becomes Joe, begins a new life, becomes a different person but not in name only. Keren David begins a narrative that is exciting and very readable. It involves extraordinary circumstances, but in the end it is a coming of age tale with the same feelings of guilt and anxiousness of any young teenage boy but with the consequences of his actions having enormous repercussions for his friends and family.
As Joe, Ty is empowered. He has friends, girls find him attractive and mysterious, he is good at athletics and he finds a confidence in himself he never had as Ty.Always lurking in the background is the incident with the knife. It haunts him especially at night until he is unsure what is real and what is imagined. Popularity also brings its problems. Ashley the most influential girl in his school makes it known that she fancies him and won't brook no for an answer. He also becomes noticed by other boys in the school with their positions as top dogs to defend. Joe finds in the end that he's not exactly keeping a low profile.
His Mum, Nicki, doesn't cope with their changed lifestyle at first. She can't continue with her job or her study to be a lawyer. She has to leave her sisters and mother in London. She and Joe are alone in a new place with new identities. The police are their most constant source of information and for Nicki the only human contact other than Joe. She becomes depressed and introverted.
David's narrative continues and ramps up the pace when gran is attacked by the gang wanting to know the whereabouts of Ty, Joe is in increasing amounts of trouble at his new school, and his social life is going down the toilet. Just when the reader believes the package will be neatly tied up with a bow and ribbon we learn that we have to wait for the next book! This is the most disappointing aspect of the book. I would have liked it to reach its climax and any remaining mystery solved.
A good read. Hopefully David will be able to keep up the pace for another entire book.
Mark Knight

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