What’s it all about?:
Three children walked away from the cottages on the edge of town toward Berwick Waters. Later that day, only two of them came back. . . .
Alice Tully knows exactly what happened that spring day six years ago, though it’s still hard for her to believe it. She’ll never be able to forget, even though she’s trying to lead a normal life–she has a job, friends, and a boyfriend whom she adores. But Alice’s past is dangerous, and violent, and sad . . . and it’s about to rip her new life apart.
A gripping and emotionally searing novel by accomplished British author Anne Cassidy, Looking for JJ infuses a terrifying subject with humanity and hope.
What did I think?:
It’s always difficult to decide what twelve books Chrissi and I should put on our kid lit list at the start of every year as there is such a wealth of brilliant children’s literature out there yet I don’t think we are ever going to struggle over what to choose! Anne Cassidy is an author I’ve heard of but I’ve never read any of her work before and Looking For JJ was suggested as one of the top books for younger readers, although it does probably sit firmly in the young adult category rather than “kid lit,” due to some of the more adult content.
JJ is the nickname of Jennifer Jones who when she is ten years old does something absolutely terrible in a moment of madness, something that she regrets deeply and something that she will have to live with for the rest of her life. Due to the enormity and severity of what she does, after spending some time in a young offender’s institution she is released and given a brand new identity – that of Alice Tully and a new home with a wonderful social worker called Rosie who keeps an eye on Alice and helps her to adjust to her new life whilst she prepares to go to university and study history.
We learn about Alice’s life in the present time as she begins to integrate herself back into society, working part-time at a local coffee shop and even forging a tentative relationship with her boyfriend, Frankie. Of course, Alice can’t forget the dreadful things that happened in her past and we also get an insight into her life as a child when she was Jennifer, especially the toxic relationship she had with her mother and her struggles to adapt to foster care or short stays with a rather indifferent grandmother when her mother decides that she can’t deal with looking after her at certain points in her life. Piece by piece, the trauma and deep sadness of Alice/Jennifer’s childhood becomes apparent and we begin to see what happened to precipitate the events of that awful day that changed her life forever.
Very few people know that Alice Tully is Jennifer Jones, including her boyfriend, Frankie mainly for her own safety so you can imagine the horror that ensues when a private detective comes sniffing around, certain that Jennifer Jones has been released and is living under a new identity. She has absolutely no contact with her mother for reasons that will become apparent as the story continues, but memories of her and the way she was treated as a child still get deep underneath her skin. Alice is forced to confront the ghosts of her past on a daily basis but none more so when her new identity is compromised and the whole life that she is has built as this new person may now be in jeopardy.
As I mentioned earlier, this book was a bit of a surprise and I definitely didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did. Both the plot and characters were truly spell-binding and the book was pretty much impossible to put down – I easily finished it on the same day I began reading it! It may not be entirely suitable for younger readers as, at times, there is quite a bit of adult content but I don’t want to give too much away by saying exactly what this is. As part of the young adult genre however, it is a brilliant, thrilling ride that is sure to captivate and surprise readers until the very end. Chrissi recently informed me that there is a follow up to this novel – Finding Jennifer Jones and I’m certain that this will be going on my TBR list for the near future!
For Chrissi’s fab review, please see her blog HERE.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):