Readers’ Favorite announces the review of the Young Adult – Social Issues book “Any Joe” by Maura Lin
Reviewed By Viga Boland for Readers’ Favorite
When I reflect on the style of the young adult novel Any Joe by Maura Lin, I envision a delicious dinner being prepared in a slow cooker. Why? Because special foods need time for all the rich flavors to fully blend and be enjoyed. So too, is the development of this beautiful story about Joe and Cherie, whose friendship began when both were very young, when life seemed so simple as long as you had parents who loved and nurtured you along the way. Then, of course, comes puberty with its often disruptive influencers and the resulting disturbances to fragile, developing psyches. Joe and Cherie each experienced events that didn’t seem particularly traumatic to them at the time…so subtle is the author’s presentation…but which prove to be life-changing in their later teen and adult years. As I suggested in my opening analogy, readers cannot come away from this delicious combination of familiar yet unique characters, settings, and situations, without being impressed by how much Joe and Cherie’s story of growing up resembles our own in some way or another. It’s so relatable it’s almost uncanny.
There is one aspect of the plot that will be of special interest and importance to today’s younger generation: the danger of chatting on the internet, and how good people can be drawn into a situation with life-altering results. We see the result of that when we meet the adult Joe in the opening chapter but it will take the novel’s passage of years to explain how he got there. It is at the end of the novel that we recognize that Joe could be any one of us. Hence the novel’s simple but deep title. One of the statements made about Cherie toward the end of the novel stays with me: “In her heart, at her most essential core, that overly tender part that empathizes with everyone, with everything — that core knows that any action is understandable if you know the story. But, is all forgivable?” Read Any Joe by Maura Lin. Know the story and decide on your answer to that question. Magnificent!”
Reviewed by Christian Sia for Readers’ Favorite
Any Joe by Maura Lin is the story of Joe and Cherie who grew up in the same neighborhood and had both experienced trauma as adolescents. Joe is arrested and charged with felony sex offenses while Cherie continues to pursue her education in college, determined to make a good career in life. When they finally get a chance at love, will the past allow them to be there for each other and to face the difficulties life throws at them with equanimity?
Maura Lin has crafted a tale with a resonant setting in the mid-1990s and 2000s, bringing to life characters that are complex and fully drawn. The setting is in an era when communication was filled with sexual innuendoes and where there was a growing sense of sexual freedom among the younger generations. Joe and Cherie grow up in lonely homes and they understand what hardship felt like. As readers follow these two characters, they can’t help but be drawn to them emotionally. Even in the face of corruption and outright cruelty, readers want to see them get along well and survive the odds. This book presents relevant social issues, deftly illustrating how our environment can shape us and how the past can continually overshadow our efforts at love and success.
The characters are genuinely flawed and relatable, and their inner worlds are stunningly written, deepening the psychological richness of the story. Maura Lin makes it interesting to watch characters totter under the weight of their pasts while dealing with trying circumstances in the present. While this novel entertains, it equally invites readers to reflect on the influences in their lives and to be aware of how culture and environment can affect relationships. Well-plotted and cleverly accomplished.
Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers’ Favorite
Any Joe is a work of fiction in the drama subgenre. It is aimed at young adult readers and was penned by author Maura Lin. The book follows the lives of protagonists, Joe and Cherie, as they experience a turbulent coming of age defined by misfired romance, soul-defining traumatic experiences, and the cultural shift of the early 2000s in which sexual identity and morality were impossible to grasp as solid concepts. As the events of their youth come to define their adulthood, a reunion between the two shines a light on the people they’ve become and casts a long shadow over their future.
This was a very challenging yet poignant read, exploring the cycle of abuse that occurs behind closed doors by charting the path from victim to abuser. Author Maura Lin’s gift for prose brings the philosophical character study to life as Joe and Cherie struggle with a series of realistic yet tactfully depicted scenes from their lives. Throughout the work, both characters feel grounded and intensely realistic, emphasizing the unpleasantness of their experiences by highlighting the unfortunate reality that the things that happened to them could happen to anyone from any background. What results from this beautiful character work and focus on a powerful theme is a story that engrosses the reader quickly whilst providing a reflection on the best and worst aspects of humanity. Overall, Any Joe is a powerful work of drama that shines a light on an issue that demands constant vigilance from all of us and tells a compelling human story whilst doing so.
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“So many people were getting sucked in . . . any Sam, Dick, or Harry, as the expression went. Any Joe, for that matter.”
From ANY JOE, by Maura Lin, copyright 2022