I have read a lot of amazing young adult books this year. I have loved books by Sophia Bennett, Cat Clarke, Rook Hastings, Simmone Howell, Sarra Manning, Tamsyn Murray, Luisa Plaja – and now that I look at them all listed, I realise that I’ve actually met all of those authors this year too – but two of the books I loved the most this year are by an author I’m good friends with online, but haven’t met in the real world: Keren David.
I highly doubt I would ever have read When I Was Joe if I hadn’t become friendly with Keren on Twitter. The cover not only features a boy in a hoodie, but it’s got blood splattered on it. And it’s about teen knife crime. I’m a giant wuss so it’s a bit too real for me. But I absolutely loved it. It’s about Ty who, after witnessing a stabbing, has to go into witness protection, changing his name to Joe. Yes, it’s a serious subject, but the book is written with such a light touch that it’s not a difficult or harrowing read at all. Okay, some bits are pretty harrowing. But mainly it’s gripping, honest and thought-provoking. It made me cry. And it even made me laugh.
Obviously after reading When I Was Joe, I had high hopes for the sequel, Almost True, and I think I may like that one even more. I don’t say ‘I couldn’t put it down’ easily, but… I couldn’t put it down. There were parts that made me squeak with fear and, again, it made me cry. Ty/Joe is a wonderful character and the supporting characters feel utterly real too.
Both books are an amazing achievement and should, I think, be read by teenagers and parents alike. I can’t wait for Keren’s next book.