When I Was Joe by Keren David

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When I Was Joe by Keren David

Fourteen year old Ty recounts to police a murder he witnessed in a park committed almost by accident by his best friend, Arron. Another older boy pushes the victim on to Arron’s knife. Ty runs for help, stopping a bus to call for an ambulance, while everyone else runs away. Ty doesn’t know one of the boys is the son of a crime boss who is determined to prevent Ty from testifying. After hours with the police Ty and his mother are taken back to their apartment to pack some clothes; while they’re there someone throws a gasoline bomb into the shop right below them.. The police hustle them out the back as the building is on fire. After they spend two weeks in a motel a police specialist changes their appearances with haircuts, new hair colors and colored contact lenses before they’re moved to their new home, 50 miles from London where they lived. Ty enrolls in a new school under the name Joe with a younger age and grade. As Ty/Joe settles in to his new school, his mother struggles with her isolation, missing family and friends, and wants to stop her son from testifying. When the criminals beat up Ty’s grandmother in an attempt to stop his testimony, Ty realizes how serious his situation is. At the same time he is dealing with a bully at his new school.

A sequel to this book, Almost true, continues the story of how Ty, his mother and family deal with the decisions they have to make. While Ty, in the witness protection program, waits to testify about a murder he witnessed, he comes back to police cars at his home and a pool of blood at his front door. He learns his family is safe but hitmen shot a man they thought was Ty. When Ty’s aunt starts believing the police can’t protect him anymore, she makes him move to live with people she knows out in the country. Even as Ty adjusts to a new living situation he still has to go to court several times to testify. Without giving any of the plot away, I can say these two books present teenager readers with some ethical dilemmas to consider.

 

Review by Ms. Goldstein-Erickson

All Involved by Ryan Gattis

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In the aftermath of the verdict that acquitted four Los Angeles Police Officers of beating Rodney King, an unarmed African American man, all hell broke loose in Los Angeles (CLICK HERE FOR A TIMELINE OF THE HISTORICAL EVENTS). Not only were there protests and outpourings of rage over the verdict, but parts of Los Angeles began to burn. This novel is the story of people who took advantage of the madness and those who became the victims of the many unseen, and ultimately unsolvable, crimes. Meth heads with molotov cocktails, gangster with revenge plots, and black ops with orders to maim all roamed the city without repercussion. Even the firefighters who came to rescue people and homes found themselves targeted and attacked.

This book is violent and not at all about the politics of police brutality that sparked the five days of social unrest that brought Los Angeles to its knees. It is a one sided journey into the dangerous underbelly of a system gone wrong. In a city where justice has been absent for too, too long and gangs of all colors and races, including the police, run amuck at will.

Review by Sarah Rosenkrantz

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

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Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

In the city of Ketterdam in the country of Kerch, society is strictly divided between classes, with rich merchants at the top and various criminal groups and gangs at the bottom. Upper classes, business and trades people, tourists and those coming to Ketterdam for its busy trade and markets all want to visit its gambling houses and other shady businesses in a designated part of the city. The law allows the various enterprises to operate as long as they do not disturb the status quo and those in power. Among the criminal gangs is the Dregs, run by an enigmatic young man named Kaz Brekker. Kaz has gathered young people with unique talents, including a sharp shooter with a gambling problem, a runaway from a merchant family who’s good with explosives, a young woman gifted at spying and with her knives, among others. When a new drug appears that amplifies magical powers of a group known as Grisha, Kaz and his crew are hired to kidnap the scientist who developed it. The challenge is that the scientist is being held captive in an impenetrable fortress in a well-guarded city. Kaz plans the job so each member of his gang’s special skills play an essential part in the plot. Suspense builds as they face unexpected obstacles. The book ends on a cliffhanger; I can’t wait to read the sequel!

I have loved reading fantasy for as long as I can remember and never cease to be amazed at the worlds, characters and plots authors invent. Leigh Bardugo has used her imagination to give readers a gift of believable people who possess magical abilities in a plausible world.

Review by Ms. Goldstein-Erickson

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