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When I Was Joe by Keren David
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When I Was Joe

by Keren David

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    Fakie by Tony Varrato (JRlibrary)
    JRlibrary: Both books involve boys placed in a witness relocation program. Also try Zach's Lie (book one) and Jack's Run (book two by Roland Smith.
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So many kids' books contemplate what would happen if we really could change our lives. What if I'm secretly a princess or a fairy queen, what if I could be an astronaut or an adventurer? What if I could be the most popular kid in school?

WHEN I WAS JOE by Keren David takes this common premise and twists it to create a thriller of a teen novel: a child's dream and nightmare rolled into one. Ty goes into the witness protection program to become Joe. He gets a new look, money for stylish clothes, even colored contacts. He's pushed back a grade at his cushy school, so he's head of the class, tall, muscular, and the boy every girl wants. Except he still carries a knife, sees the blood over and over again in his mind, and quickly discovers "the gangsters will stop at nothing to silence him."

Is your heart racing yet? Mine sure was!

Every chapter of WHEN I WAS JOE ends on a cliffhanger, so I tore my way through the book, stopping only to check how many pages I had left (thankfully JOE's over 300! Thankfully there's a sequel coming out this year!).

Besides its killer premise, Keren populates her novel with remarkably real people. Ty/Joe is a typical 14-year-old boy: sexually charged, making dumb mistakes, utterly focused on his image above everything else. Yet the reader can also see into his heart and feel his fear. I laughed my ass off and cheered for Ty the whole way through. The characters who surround Ty are equally well-developed: his poor Mum goes through her own devastating transformation in the witness protection program, his coach is a driven athlete competing for a spot in the paralympics, her younger sister, shy, hidden Claire, is hiding a dangerous secret of her own. I even loved Ashley, the mean girl Joe initially falls for--how true to real life she was!

And I loved Keren's East London setting. At the beginning of the novel, Ty and his mum live above a newsagent who shares man-to-man advice with him and teaches him Urdu. He learns Turkish from the nearby kebab shop, Polish from a hotel worker. Keren perfectly captures the thrill of a multi-ethnic, multi-linguistic neighborhood. And her characters reflect this as well. It never felt like a set of boxes to be ticked (Indian, check, wheelchair-user, check), only real life. If only more authors would celebrate diversity like this. ( )
  annemlanderson | Mar 31, 2013 |
Tyler witnesses something that makes some people want him dead, so he and his mother have to enter a witness protection program and get relocated. He gets a new identity and a new name, as does his mother, and he starts at a new school, one grade younger than his previous school. He gets pretty attached to life as Joe; he gets his first serious girlfriend, Ashley, and later, his first friend, Claire. But Joe has a big secret, and so does Claire. How long can those secrets stay hidden? I liked Jack's Run, and Jack's Lie by Roland Smith a LOT better than this book, so if you can only read one, check out the first one by Roland Smith. ( )
  JRlibrary | Jul 5, 2011 |
Ty witnesses a murder in the park by his home. Next thing he knows, he and his mother are whisked into the witness protection program, and told to lie low. He gets a new name in a new place. Joe is cooler than Ty ever was. Ty likes being Joe. But the gangsters keep threatening his family and trying to track him down. ( )
  pmlyayakkers | May 19, 2011 |
I'm afraid I didn't really get on with this book at all. On the plus side I found the description of being taken into police protection very thought-provoking and well described. Unfortunately I didn't think the story was written for any particular audience and therefore I would find it very difficult to 'sell'. The cover, and the blurb suggests that it will be gritty and gripping and I thought it would suit teenage boys whereas the writing is quite graceful and there's quite a lot of romance which would probably be more popular with girls. A mixed bag but I'm not overly excited about there being a sequel.
  andrea.hassan | Feb 7, 2011 |
Ty and his mother, Nicki, are taken into witness protection after Ty witnesses the death of a young boy in a London park. In his new persona as Joe, Ty is able to reinvent himself. He makes friends at his new school, attracts the attention of Ashley, the clique queen, and starts training as a runner. But living a lie proves difficult for both Ty and his mother, because Ty hasn't told the police the whole truth.

The novel vibrates with tension. There are several attempts on Ty's life, his Gram is attacked, and school personnel treat him with suspicion because they've been told 'there was some trouble at his old school.' David uses Ty's point of view to frame the narrative. This effectively highlights the tension between playing the role of Joe and reflecting on exactly who Ty really is. This is the first of several novels about Ty; a teaser chapter to the next book is included. David has created an interesting young adult who must navigate his journey of self discovery while caught up in truly suspenseful game of cat and mouse. I look forward to the next installment of his journey. This book was reviewed from the ARC. ( )
  libmaven | Oct 26, 2010 |
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After Ty and his mother are placed in a witness protection program because he can identify his friend's murderers, he finds himself adjusting, but when his grandmother is hurt in a deliberate attack designed to get him to return to London, he knows he must make a choice.… (more)

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