Sunday, 16 February 2014

Looking For JJ by Anne Cassidy (Young Adult, 10E/10E)

 2nd edition August 2013, Scholastic, 304 pages, Paperback, Review copy

Themes: loneliness, uncaring parent, neglect, wanting to fit in, repentance, misunderstood, jealousy, frustration, friendship, beloved childhood doll
Themes: hints of prostitution, scene of killing someone, emotional abuse

Summary from Scholastic (for the first edition) 
When she was ten, Alice did something so wicked that the whole world would hate her if they knew. Now she’s sixteen, free at last, with a new identity and a new life. But branded as a killer, forced to live a lie, how long can she keep the past at bay? The rare, brave and topical story of a young person scarred by their involvement in a terrible crime.

Nayuleska's thoughts
Some killers are obviously bad and enjoy committing their crimes. I'm intrigued by child killers because I wonder what drives them over the edge to do it. JJ aka Alice is not a bad person. At the end of her story I picked up the book and hugged it, as if giving her a help would help ease her pain.

The reader learns early on who Alice is, so that's not a big spoiler. I love how the book involves flashbacks so by the end I knew who was killed and why. I felt for Alice every step of the way. It truly wasn't exactly her fault that she killed a friend. She had so much going on in her life that even an adult would find hard to deal with that it's unsurprising she had a burst of strong emotion. I liked how those taking care of her when she was released didn't blame her or make her feel like dirt.

 Okay, she did a good job of self-blame, hiding under her duvet was the best place to be when the chaos descended and her new identity was threatened. Yet overall the book is about hope of the future. Alice is bombarded by the past when she was JJ, but slowly through new life experiences she gains some  inner strength, forges ahead while giving some time to mourn her past and deal with the mixed emotions which will probably always be with her.

 I'm over the moon there is a sequel! I've never felt such compassion for a killer, and I'm eager to see what happens next for Alice - who ends up with another name but I'm not saying what. There are still events which feel as if they ought to happen, so I'm hoping the will in book 2 which I have and will read soon!

Find out more on Anne's website.

Suggested read
Another teen criminal who has to undergo witness protection and a change of identity is Tyler from When I Was Joe by Keren David (Young Adult, 10E/10E)

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