Friday, September 3, 2010

When I Was Joe by Keren David [Book Inspection] (@Kerensd)

Plot Sketch: Ty witnesses a crime take place in the park.  It's a heinous crime, and the police feel the need to move him and his mother into the witness protection programme and move them out of their home and out of London so that Ty will be safe to testify.  As soon as they get out of London, Ty's name is changed to Joe, and he and his mother start a new life.  Joe starts a new school, has a new eye color and has the opportunity to become a completely different person.  This is the beginning of Ty's story, and it takes you through the bad, the good, and the ugly of being in witness protection, weaving in the events that led up to his family's entrance into the programme throughout his experiences as Joe.

Verdict:  At first, I had a really hard time getting through this book.  I realized immediately that it was a language barrier that was preventing me from understanding what was going on and was preventing me from getting into the story.  As soon as I started writing down the words I didn't know so that I could look them up, I felt better about the story.  A lot of the British slang you can pick up from context, but a lot of it you can't.  I've added a guide below for my fellow Americans who may have been/may become confused as to the terminology of this book (thanks  After I became accustomed to writing down these words, I began to really enjoy the story.  I thought Keren David's character development brilliant and her storytelling adept. The main character is done so well!  He is so deep and so real and so relatable.   I can't wait for the next installment of Ty's story, Almost True, and if an American/British English barrier is something you can easily overlook or get used to, this YA thriller will not let you walk away and forget about it.  Also, prepare yourself to be shocked during a couple of scenes, and be prepared to change the way you perceive the story and its characters several times.  It takes a talented author to change an entire book and the entire way you view a character with one sentence.  Karen David did that for me, and all I want is more! And for those of you who want a more comprehensive list of American translations, check out Keren's Tossers & Trainers Glossary with "translations" and read an explanation on why she wrote such a British book (to which we say Brava! and thanks to Keren for pointing it out!)

Location: a town 50 miles outside of London, but Joe can't remember his name
Main Character: Ty/Joe
Favorite Character: Claire
Would Change: I can't say I would change anything.  Maybe just my knowledge level of British slang?  The story is gripping.
Favorite Line: So hard to pick, I have to give you two:
1)" I tell her in a soft, Istanbul-accented whisper that there are cockroaches in the kitchen and I'm worried about a visit from environmental health, and she sighs and says, 'That sounds so sexy.' I kiss her again and say in English, 'It's so dirty I can't tell you what it means.'" p143, paperback
2) "'Yeah,' I say and she says, 'You know Ty, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger,' which is pretty amazing because I would have thought that Maureen'd be way too old to had even heard of Kanye West." p251, paperback
Good for Monster? Not for my fantasy-loving Monster... but your guy who likes Dekker or Grisham or Patterson will love this.
People Who Will Like This: Detective Olivia Benson, Veronica Mars, vampires, and my mom.
People Who Won't Like This: hardcore romantics, aliens, and people who pick their nose in public
Chapters: 31, and at times they felt long, even though they aren't physically very long.
Author's Website:
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Acquire It: Amazon       Book Depository       Changing Hands

This book came out in the UK in January, and in the U.S. on August 31st.

Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Frances Lincoln Children's Books
Publish Date: August 31, 2010
ISBN-10: 1847801315

(updated per Keren's comments, thanks Keren!!)
British WordDefinitionBritish WordDefinition
naffuncool, tacky, unfashionable, worthlessflannelwashcloth
tosserEnglish insult.
Implies that the person masturbates excessively.
odd kebabfew kebabs
crispschipschavHumanoid in appearance, but primative and animalistic in nature
form tutorprovide parents with most of the information about their child’s progress and any problems they might be experiencingtaking the pissMaking fun of something or someone
chuffedTo be very pleased, proud or happy with yourselfkit bagduffel bag
right lemonidiotslapperslut
aggroaggressive, argumentativemingera male or female who fell out of the ugly tree at birth and hit every branch on the way down


Keren David said...

Thanks so much for this great review! You might like to read my blog post on being un-Americanised, which has a glossary attached - in fact I think I'm going to make the glossary a permanent page on my blog. I love your glossary...some of it's not quite right though - when Ashley says she 'feels a right lemon' she means 'I felt like an idiot'. I can't remember using flannel, but I've never heard it mean an attractive man.'I ate the odd kebab' means 'I ate a few kebabs'...

Keren David said...

Flannel! I found it! It's a wash cloth.

Dwayne said...

That translation table made me giggle! I didn't know you Americans aren't familiar with those slangs, lol

Liz. R said...

I am so proud! Being British I have no trouble understanding the slang but I love love love the little table you made :). I'm so happy you decided to overlook the language barrier :). This also definitely sounds like an interesting book, I've never read about the witness protection program before. Thanks for the review!