Joe - H.D. Gordon (Book read and reviewed for {Read It & Reap 76} in the Shut Up And Read group.)

I had never read anything from this author in the past, but I wanted to review it after noticing a few people writing about it on their blogs, as well as being attracted by the kind of plot it deals with. It turned out to be quite the gripping novel in many aspects, and I found myself drawn to it more and more with each page.

The themes perused in the book are of the kind that tend to hit home. Enjoy life while it lasts, because you never know what will happen tomorrow. Don't put back what matters until tomorrow, because tomorrow might just not come. It's when you're about to lose your life that you finally understand its worth. And, of course: if you were able to foresee such a terrible event as presented in "Joe", what would you do? Would you face it, even knowing there's no chance to win? Or would you run away, saving your life at the cost of that of dozens of people? Perhaps such themes will seem overrated or hackneyed to some readers, but to me, they always provide perspective and questioning, and I like that. I like being confronted with such conundrums.

The eight people whose points of view we follow through the story all have questions and/or problems of their own to deal with. The almost-retired teacher with only two months left before she is 'free' from her job at last. The depressed student who's taken a terrible decision. The kid who can't wait to meet his teenage-years sweetheart. The single mother wondering if she should allow herself a new chance at loving, and find a new father for her children. The young man estranged from his family because of one mistake, with a fierce desire to get a new start. The killer—the Decider, with his cold point of view that will send shivers down your spine. And, of course, Joe herself, struggling with her insecurities, her power that may or may not be a curse, the decision she will have to make. All of them I found interesting to follow. All of them I wanted to see survive in the end. But from the start, you know that in such a story, not everyone will get a chance at life again. This inescapable conclusion is absolutely heart-wrenching.

As a side note, since the "eight POVs" aspect was mentioned by other people, I must say that it didn't bother me. I've read stories with even more POVs than that, and here I think the voices of all those characters were introduced clearly enough each time (if only because their names are mentioned) to make them flow nicely. Also, the way they were used near the end was a clever addition, giving the feeling of cut scenes interweaving into each other. I quite liked that. The only thing I couldn't determine until well into the novel was: why make Joe's point of view the only one in the first person? I couldn't decide if it was justified or not, because I feel the story would have worked just as well had it been in the third person. In the end, though, I chose to view it as a good point. It marks the centre of the whole web, gathers all the threads together, while setting Joe apart, which is also justified if we consider her odd ability that has always made her different.