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Looking for JJ - Anne Cassidy

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    6 Reviews
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      01.03.2013 11:13
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      A YA thriller focusing on the life of a released child murderer.

      Looking for JJ is a Young Adult novel by Anne Cassidy. The novel is split into four parts and roughly follows the lives of those involved and the aftermath of an event that happened seven years prior: the violent murder of Michelle Livingstone by her best friend, Jennifer Jones, both girls only ten years old at the time. Now it's coming up to the end of Jennifer Jones' prison sentence, and the media are having a field day: painting JJ an evil convicted killer and an imminent danger to all children about to be set loose on the world.


      Like everybody else, seventeen-year-old Alice Tully follows the papers intently. However, unlike everyone else, she knows exactly what happened that day - because she was there, swinging the bat that killed her friend. Despite being a relatively normal older teen, with a boyfriend and a place at university, Alice lives in constant fear of her true identity being revealed. She knows that her fragile world will all too easily crash down around her, if and when her loved ones learn what she did that day seven years ago. Will she be able to live a normal life with the threat of her past threatening to ruin her?


      Each of the four parts that comprise this novel relates to a facet of the incident: we see how Jennifer Jones' life was before the murder, neglected by her mother and craving love that never materialised; we see her relationship with Michelle; we see how she is just out of prison and rebuilding her life; and without giving too much away, we see what happens even after all of that. I thought this was the best way to present the differences between past and present incarnations of JJ - as I think some of the thriller-like pacing would have been lost if Cassidy had kept seguing into flashbacks - and this pacing is by far the best aspect of the book.


      The weakest points of the novel are probably the characterisation and the writing style. Cassidy's characters are more like paper puppets moved along as the plot decrees; none of them had the spark which made them feel real. JJ, as our protagonist, does wring out sympathy in her backstory, but otherwise Cassidy doesn't reveal much of her personality. This may be a gambit to show how tight-lipped JJ is about her past, but really just feels more like shoddy writing. As for real shoddy writing, Cassidy has a habit of oversimplifying things in a bid to appeal to younger readers, but unfortunately just alienates the adult audience who are more likely to pick this book up.


      Despite feeling that this novel explores new territory for the YA genre, I am left feeling conflicted as to who Cassidy really wrote this for. Unfortunately, the subject matter is a little too mature for younger teens to properly ruminate over, but for an adult, the writing is a little too simple and clunky to appreciate; the suggested demographic for this novel seems conflicted. Personally, I would not recommend this for anyone under fourteen or over eighteen, which only leaves a sliver of an audience that could appreciate this book fully. For any thoughtful teenager, there is a lot that could be gained in reading this book. For anyone older, I would say give this a miss and read Natsuo Kirino's "Grotesque" instead, which has a similar moral dilemma delivered in a more stylish and intelligent way.


      Of course no work of fiction, whether written for a child or an adult, can escape reality. The fact is, children do murder and get murdered, and no work of fiction can ever hope to deliver answers as to why this still happens in our society.


      In Looking for JJ, any justification for Jennifer Jones' behaviour is obviously deeply flawed. However, Cassidy does ask some important questions in telling JJ's story: do murderers deserve sympathy? Should the family or community around a child-murderer be held accountable for their actions? Should someone convicted of a crime who has served their time behind bars be allowed a normal life? What if you found out someone close to you hid a dark and life-changing secret? Unfortunately, just like everyone else, I am still looking for answers.


      Paperback: 304 pages
      Publisher: Point; 1 edition (18 Feb 2005)
      Language: English
      ISBN-10: 0439977177
      ISBN-13: 978-0439977173

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        20.11.2011 22:59

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        Amazing novel worth the read

        Looking for jj is an excellent novel written by Ann Cassidy. It follows a teenage girl that has just left prison for commuting a violent crime at a very young age. She killed her best friend that stopped speaking to her because her mother was a Glamour Model.
        She has a new identity and is trying to start a new life and put the past behind her. The story goes back and forward between the years leading up to the incident and post jail life.
        Throughout the book she fears she will be recognized and people will know who she is and what she did.
        You learn alot how families lifestyle and jealousy can have a bad affect on young kids and cause them to do bad things.
        Your are able see the difference between Jennifer Jones as an angry lonely kid into her new identity Alice Tully.

        The element of jealousy plays a huge role in this book it made me realise how mean people can from reading this book I started to be more wise about who my friend are because the book shows how easy people can turn on you.

        Jennifer Jones is an angry, lonely kid she lacks the ability to understand that people can be mean and judge you on what your family do.
        Alice Tully the new much older jj is far more mature. She is very remorseful foe what she did. Jj grows into a very stony character after her identity is changed.
        I would say the author did this because new identity means whole new person you almost forget Alice was the same kid who went to jail.

        I recommend this book for young adults. You can get it on Amazon for less than £5.

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        14.02.2009 01:42
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        .

        Looking for jj is a brillantly written novel, exploring the life of 16 year old Alice Tully who is trying to start a new life spite the guilt after serving jail for five and a half years for murdering her best friend when she was 10. The book is split up into 4 parts, going back also to her child hood with a disfuctional mother with an array of boyfriends, and the present where Alice, her probation oficer Jill and Rosie are trying to keep her Alice's past a secret in oder to protect her from the british press and the public.

        As a 13 yr old book lover I find the childrens section a bit boring and ofden read from the young adults section. But apon reading 'Looking for jj' when the book flashes back to Alice Tully/ Jenafier Jones' past I found the book a bit hauning. But yet to good to put down.

        But can Alice really have the new life with her boyfriend that she's dreamed of?
        Or will her past destroy it forever?

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        08.04.2007 01:47
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        Overall, a good, thought-provoking novel.

        Looking for JJ is an excellent novel for young adults. It tell Alice Tully's story as she settles into life after being released from prison. She has been given a new identity and hopes to start a new life. At the start of the book this seems possible; she has a place at university and a loving, if slightly possessive, boyfriend, but things will never be easy for Alice Tully. In a series of flashbacks her crime is revealed - when she was only ten she murdered her best friend.

        In this novel Anne Cassidy examines several themes. The friendship between the young girls is shown to be a battleground, with a power struggle at the centre. The different sets of parents show how selfish some parents can be, and what effect this can have. The media treatment of Alice show us just how vindictive they are, how they stop at nothing to get their story. The characterisation of the girls when they are young is excellent as is Alice's Mum; however her social work seems like a bit of a stereotype.

        However, I feel the main theme 'children killing children' is skimmed over, probably because there is so little evidence to go on or maybe because it is too horrific to think about, never mind write about. Having read this novel I did some research into child killers on the internet and it is a very disturbing topic, it is too easy to write these people of as freaks of nature, but they were all ordinary kids at one point and they have to live with the crimes they have commited.

        Overall, a good, thought-provoking novel.

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          14.12.2005 15:00
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          well worth a reed

          Looking for JJ is the gripping novel by Anne Cassidy, which grips the imagination of the reader from page 1. The plot line follows Alice Tully, a young woman leading a normal life, but with a terrible past. Only three people know she was once the child murderer by the name of Jennifer Jones. But soon, her cover will be blown as the past begins to creep up on her.
          We find out what happened that day, when Jennifer Jones murdered her best friend and buried her alive, and we discover just how difficult her life has been: both as Alice Tully, and JJ.

          The plot is dark and chilling, and full of suspense. I really enjoyed the book and will read it again in the future.

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          24.11.2005 21:25
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          I recomend this book and you need to go out and buy it

          Looking for JJ, looking for a new life, looking for a new start where no one knows her past, or her background, she’s changed; she doesn’t know what overcame her to kill her.

          “Three children walked away from the cottages on the edge of town towards Berwick waters. Later that day, only two of them come back…”

          Jennifer Jones has been in prison for the last six years for murdering a girl who was bossy, and b***hy. Jennifer didn’t mean to, she remembers everything, and has been in deep guilt for the past years. She doesn’t need papers, or prison to make her feel the guilt of it all, she already has it lumbered upon her back. That one spring day, where an accident happened, three girls went out to the woods, yet only two of them came back.

          Alice Tully is one of the only people that know who Jennifer is, and what she’s like as a real person. Alice has a life, a job, a boyfriend who she loves truly, and friends who stand by her through everything. Alice has many friends who support and care for her; she is one of two people that know what happened that day that changed who Jennifer was. She’s trying to get on with her life, making a real go of it, but will Jennifer’s past come back, haunt and rip Alice’s new life apart?

          Through the storms, through the wind, through the rain, will Alice be able to get through the worst of the media, through the worst of what people think? Will Alice be able to have the new start, the new life that she’s always wanted, to forget the past she thought she left behind? Will she be able to withstand this storm within her life?

          This book is wonderfully written, and I love it truly. The story is amazing, the plot is wonderfully written, and the characters were well thought out. At one point, I got confused, but when I re-read the page, I managed to get it. Sometimes, I even ask myself, I wonder if this sort of thing has happened to a child killer before, although I don’t know of any child murder stories.

          My final conclusion is that this is a brilliant book, which goes from the past, to the present, to the past and so on. It’s written perfectly and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. This is a magically written book, catching the essence of the world with people who just want to start over again, without the past haunting them.


          Winner of the Book trust teenage prize 2004
          Short listed for the Whitbread children’s book award 2004
          ‘Compassionate, unsensational and unflinching’ guardian
          ‘The power play between the three young girls at the centre of the story is spot on…this book is difficult to put down.’ Adele Geras, TES
          ‘Dark, chilling and clever’ Celia Rees


          Prices and availability:
          www.scholastic.co.uk/zone
          Amazon: new and used from £0.99 or their price £4.79
          E bay: couldn’t find it on there
          Tesco: £4.49
          RRP: £5.99

          Thanks for reading. Angiexx2005

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