***There is something I love about British crime dramas. I adore Heartbeat and whodunits like Midsomer Murders and Rosemary &Thyme. I also love grittier shows like Taggart, Above Suspicion, A Touch of Frost and, of course, The Bill. My point? Reading When I Was Joe was like watching an episode of The Bill, but following the story of the witnesses and victims of crime rather than the investigating officers. When I Was Joe was incredibly captivating, a true contemporary novel which stays with you long after the final page. Ty’s trouble begins when he witnesses a murder in a London park. When his mother convinces him to tell the police they are forced to go in to witness protection. Neither Ty or his mum are keen on the idea, but are convinced when their home is targeted in a deliberate petrol-bomb attack designed to shut them up. Then Ty becomes Joe, a sexier, more confident version of himself who makes a splash at the high school of the small town they’ve been relocated to. That’s when things get really interesting. I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose everything in one night, your friends, your extended family and the stuff in your house, the stuff that holds meaning which cannot be replaced. Given this premise, I was very interested to see where the novel went, and I was very impressed. We were given a very real story – it was gritty, it was confronting, but it was always real, heartbreakingly so at times. Both Joe/Ty and his mum were amazing characters, actually, all the characters were wonderful, because they were real. They were so real that at times I wanted to yell at them in frustration. I felt particularly angry with Joe/Ty’s mum at times and just wanted to tell her to get outside and do something, rather than laying about moping, but then I realised that if I were in the same situation I’d probably be the same. With the possibility of being moved again, I can see how she would have felt it was easier to protect herself by doing nothing. In her old life she worked incredibly hard to raise her son and be accepted by society as a young, single mother, to have that torn away from her would have been heartbreaking. We didn’t get much of an insight into Ty as a person at the beginning of the novel, because I think part of him adopted a new persona when he became Joe. Suddenly he was more confident with girls and found a new hobby he excelled at. Yet he also made me so mad sometimes. He could be lovely to the women in his life, but some of his decisions made me want to slap him. In saying that, however, I felt that he truly did learn from some of his mistakes at the end of the novel. The pacing of the novel was perfect; it was action-packed and kept me so intrigued that I finished it overnight. Books like this are the reason I love the contemporary genre, they are confronting and heartbreaking, highlighting some very real issues. When I Was Joe is certainly a must-read for all contemporary fans.