When I Was Joe
It's one thing watching someone get killed. It's quite another talking about it.
This isn't the first time that someone's tried to silence me forever. It's just the first time that someone else has died instead.
I'm trying to look cool and like I've been doing this for years. I'm trying to look like this is no big deal, nothing special, nothing new. But it feels like it might be.
Let me start off by saying that this series was a new thing for me. First off, I'm not one for thrillers, which this series definitely counts as. But I enjoy mysteries, a similar genre, so I gave it a shot. Another first about these books is that I've never read stories both written by and targeted to British people - with British lingo, punctuation, grammar, etc. It was actually pretty fun to see all the differences and try to decode the British English. (I will note the author's website, wheniwasjoe.blogspot.com, has a page with British lingo and slang definitions.)
Starting with When I Was Joe, the series follows Ty, a boy who witnessed a murder and enters witness protection after telling the police about it. However, things aren't quite what they seem; Ty, his best friend Aaron, and the police are all keeping details to themselves - who can be trusted? In Almost True, Ty's family loses faith in the police protection that has failed them and Ty's aunt takes him to her own idea of a safe house, where Ty learns that he has an entire family and history he knew nothing about. In Another Life, Ty faces charges for his own bad choices and his newfound cousin Archie decides to find out who Ty really is. Throughout the series, secrets and misunderstandings surface while Ty struggles to make - and keep - trustworthy friends while staying alive and protecting the ones he loves.
The writing style is great, especially for the genre: very gripping and fast-paced without being rushed. The character's voice comes out naturally through the narrative. The characters have good traits and bad, but there were quite a few times I felt like the main characters weren't really any better than the 'bad guys.' I've never been to England (at least when I was old enough to remember), so I can't say for certain, but it seems the writer really knows her setting well and the details and description are well-balanced. They give you an idea of what's going on and where the characters are, without boring you with excessive detail.
However, on a content level, this series is not exactly recommendable. When the series starts out, there's a good deal of violence and slums-of-London living (smoking, drinking, shady people, not the best parenting, etc.), but that's to be expected with the storyline and setting. It's as the series goes on that I feel things get out of hand. With the first book it was mostly the violence, and then language, and then some immorality (not at all graphic, I will say).
With the second book there was more violence, more language, and a whole lot of really poor choices. I kept reading, thinking this was one of those books where people are really stupid and then see the light near the end. That sort of happened. And then the third book started with a different character, and drugs and mindless popularity and more stupidity came onto the scene. I kept reading, although the writing style had gone downhill and the head-hopping drove me nuts. Finally, though, I couldn't take any more of Archie's stupid choices and Ty's anger and anxiety. So I quit.
All in all, I think this series started off well. The characters were great, and I really loved Patrick and Helen from book two. But everything just kind of unraveled as Ty struggled with PTSD and Archie acted like a complete idiot. So, as you can see above, I've listed individual ratings for each book and give the overall trilogy two and a half stars.
I received these three books for free from the author in exchange for this review. All opinions expressed are mine and mine alone.