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Looking for Answers
Looking for JJ - Anne Cassidy
Member Name: miwa
Looking for JJ - Anne Cassidy
Date: 01/03/13, updated on 28/06/13 (195 review reads)
Advantages: Interesting subject matter made thought-provoking
Disadvantages: Oversimplified writing style, poor characters
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)
Summary: A YA thriller focusing on the life of a released child murderer.