“'There's cold chicken inside it,' replied the Rat briefly; 'coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrench

'O stop, stop,' cried the Mole in ecstacies: 'This is too much!'”
-- from
The Wind in the Willows

Thursday, August 12, 2010

WHEN I WAS JOE Young adult fiction

When I Was Joe
JUST OUT! September 2010 Frances Lincoln Publishers Ages 12 and up
A completely irresistible YA thriller that explores youth crime and the nature of identity.
Story: When 14-year-old Ty witnesses the knife murder of another teen, he identifies some very dangerous people as the culprits. The police put him and his mother into a witness protection program, telling Ty that, to protect his identity, he must now go by the name “Joe.” Shy loner Ty gets a new name, a new look and a cool new image – life as “Joe” is good. But the criminals will stop at nothing to silence him. And as details of the crime he witnessed begin to emerge, we wonder just how innocent Ty really is. But though flawed, Ty is an enormously appealing character who faces his changed life with anger and sadness, as well as a degree of wit and intelligence.
Story Behind the Story: Debut British novelist Keren David asks what does a name mean? And if you change everything about yourself – your hair, color of your eyes, even your name – do you become a different person? What happens to your ‘self’ and how do you stop lying? David brings the world of East London to life in the book The Daily Telegraph called “an ice-cold thriller about identity, pain and veracity.”  But you need not be an Anglophile to understand and appreciate the bustling, working class setting in which the story takes place. The characters and their emotions are real and relatable, even if the subject matter is both brooding and intense. A great choice for advanced middle school as well as mid-level high school readers, When I Was Joe is a fast-paced novel your students won’t likely be able to put down.
Want to know more?  Read these author interviews:

FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent; please check back on the "comments" link to read what your colleagues have to say.


Emily said...

Those are very pointed questions about the role that appearance plays in identity. When does playing a part become reality?

If anyone is interested in reading the first two chapters of WHEN I WAS JOE, they are featured on the beta version of our site which you can sign up for at www.figment.com

David A. Bedford said...

Interesting treatment of a strong topic. I never cease to be amazed at the depth of British literature. Please visit my blog. Thanks!

linda said...

I enjoyed this book and read it from cover to cover in one sitting--a long sitting! Although the story takes place in England, the plot is universal.I found that the language was a little contrived at times, but overall the storyline was one that YA could relate to. It deals with the issue of gang violence, belonging, parental issues,decision making and pressures of belonging. As soon as you think that nothing else will go wrong, it does! A very exciting book. I'd give it a 4.

Julia Pitau said...

At the time I requested When I was Joe, I was a little worried that it may be similar to Nick McDonell’s Twelve containing profanity on every page. However, this book pleasantly surprised me. It started off like a roller coaster and kept twisting and turning past the end causing me to want more, more, more. When will the next installment be out? I believe this book will be well received at our school. I am wondering how the students will adjust to the London language, which had me running to the computer to look up slang wording and enjoying a chuckle here and there.

Picnic Rating: A solid 4

Denair Charter Academy

wordwarrior said...

Honestly, I did not expect the novel "When I was Joe" to be as compelling as I found it to be...I was greatly surprised! From the first page, I found it difficult to put down, I wanted to find out what was going to happen next to "Joe".
The story is based on a young English youth named Ty who witnesses a crime and gets into personal danger when he goes to the police. Both Ty and his mother Nikki are placed into witness protection and the deception to anyone they know begins. The story is filled with intriguing twists and turns throughout the entire work. This book also touches on many teen issues that plague youth today, set within an interesting tale.
The vocabularly in the story is definately from a British teen's perspective. I do not think this is a detriment to the work, in fact many teens familiar with the "Harry Potter" saga will understand and enjoy the British terms. I recommend "When I was Joe" as a strong choice for a young adult's literary diet with a 4 rating.

elreads said...

What can be said about Joe? That’s a tough question, with no simple answer. I was immediately drawn into this book. I love that it begins in London. The “Britishness” of it will fascinate American YA readers. Joe’s story was interesting and so was his culture. Many elements of the story echo situations that could easily happen to American teenager living in a similar neighborhood. This is a story about fear, friendship, the evils of violence, and for Joe, self-discovery. Joe is a frustrating character. Sometimes he’s brilliant and lovable; sometimes he’s pathetic and insufferable. He is the quintessential adolescent boy making bad decision, then trying to fix them. Deep down he’s a good guy. He’s a real teen, not perfect but not all bad either. When I was Joe will find and audience among teens who like contemporary drama and gritty urban stories like those by Walter Dean Myers or Paul Volponi . This fast paced novel is a winner. I can’t wait to read the sequel. Rating: 4 out of 5

EShay said...

Once I opened the book I was hooked. It's intriguing and keeps the reader's attention from the first page.
There are some definite hot button issues that teens may find interesting and helpful. Giving up one's identity is an issue many teens wish for from time to time and this book may give them a reason to rethink that.
Ty/Joe is trying to do the right thing and this book deals with both sides of that issue.
I do think the fact that it uses British English would be difficult for some readers. However, more advanced readers would enjoy the slight differences in language. I found that linguistic aspect to be quite intriguing.
I give it a very solid 4.

Megan B. said...

I think this is a great book for teens. It deals with a lot of thought-provoking issues that DO come up in their lives. It is extreme, of course, but that is often what it takes for teens, or even adults, to truly realize how they feel about an issue or how they may react in the same situation.

Rating: 4

Ms. Yingling said...

This looks really interesting. I'll take a look. Thanks!

sbcmom said...

I enjoyed this book, and it's already being enjoyed by one of my students. I liked the angle of the person needing to be protecting being the teenager. Joe has to deal with some tough stuff, and he does so with typical teenaged confusion. I did feel that there were a couple of situations that wouldn't be so suitable for sixth graders. I would recommend it for 7th grade and up. Look forward to the sequel! 4 out of 5 stars.

jlarkin said...

Well, I hesitated writing my review of this novel - especially after I started reading what others thought of it. Simply stated - didn't like it at all. I actually couldn't even finish reading it, and that rarely happens to me. I actually gave it to another teacher to read, thinking - maybe it's just me. But she gave it back to me with the same opinion and the same comments - We both didn't like the main character, and when you aren't invested in the character, the book is not interesting to read - there's no desire to read his story and see what happens to him. I was bored by the story line and was waiting to see what was really going on - but I just couldn't stay with it. I would unfortunately give it a 1.