When I Was Joe

When I was Joe by Keren David (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2010)

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.

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