Anne Cassidy has taken on a difficult task with her latest novel, Looking for JJ. She has wandered into that tricky area of the young adult novel that deals with controversial adult themes but is aimed at the late teenage market.
There has to be a time in everyone's reading development when that first important adult novel is tackled, and books like Looking for JJ attempt to bridge the gap between teenage reading and grown-up novels.
The storyline of Looking for JJ is controversial and uncompromising, but Cassidy has the experience and common sense to avoid sensationalism and gratuitous content. She has written a gripping and emotionally intense novel that explores the dreadful circumstances and motives behind the murder of a child by her best friend.
This is not a subject that some people would approve of in a novel written for the older end of the teenage market, but Cassidy is aware of her responsibilities and she approaches her story and characters with subtlety and imagination.
Jennifer Jones killed her best friend when she was 10 years old. She is now 17 and has just been released from a detention centre with a new identity and a fresh chance to begin her life again.
There is a tight network of well-intentioned people supporting her and offering her help. It might look easy to begin life in a new place with a new name, but Jennifer is only a teenager and the world is a very big and unforgiving place.
Can Jennifer, with her new name and new place to live, leave her dreadful past behind her? Has she any hope for anonymity or any right to be given a second chance after what she did?
The press gets to know that Jennifer has been released into public life and the chase is on. People do not forget and newspapers are always looking for sensational stories to fill their pages. If she were found, Jennifer would be front page news again.
Looking for JJ begins in the present with Alice Tully beginning her new life under the watchful eye of a social worker. Jennifer Jones is in the past and now she is Alice Tully. She has a job in a coffee shop and she desperately wants to forget the monstrous event in her past and enjoy anonymity.
But Alice's true identity is never far behind her and it cannot simply be wiped out by a change of name or change of address.
Totally compelling and cleverly structured, Looking for JJ works as a dark and chilling thriller and also as an engrossing story on a personal level about a teenager trying to escape from an appalling past. Recommended for older readers.
Looking for JJ
By Anne Cassidy
Published by Scholastic
ISBN 0 439 97712 6
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com