By Any Other Name by Laura Jarratt, published by Electric Monkey on 1st April 2013
Nobody can know the truth - her life depends on it. I picked up the book and thumbed through the pages. Names in alphabetical order, names with meanings, names I knew, names I'd never heard of. How to pick? Nothing that would stand out, nothing that would link me to the past - those were the instructions. The past. As if everything that had gone before this moment was buried already. Holly is fifteen years old, but she's only been "Holly" for a matter of months. Because of something that happened, she and her family have had to enter witness protection and have all assumed new identities. All, that is, except her sister Katie, who is autistic. Starting at a new school mid-term is hard enough at the best of times, and Holly has no clue who she is any more. Lonely and angry, she reaches out to friends - new and old. But one wrong move will put all their lives in danger...
This is the second book by Laura Jarratt and like her first title 'Skin Deep', explores different territory to many other contemporary young-adult novels currently on the market. The main theme is about making sense of who you are as a person and developing your own identity, rather than being labelled by everyone else around you. The main character Holly struggles to do exactly this, when her family is entered into the witness protection programme and she has to leave everything familiar behind. Starting over is difficult and it was interesting reading to see how Holly coped with establishing herself in a new town and having to make new friends.
The secret of why Holly's family are in witness protection is hinted at throughout the book but the big reveal doesn't come until near the end. I didn't guess the real reason why and so found the truth when it was gradually unveiled, quite shocking. It made me go back and think again about many things that had happened in the story and gave me even more admiration for Holly.
Laura Jarratt writes complex and layered characters. There is often more to them than first meets the eye. Holly's new friend Joe is an example of this - someone with a lot of layers whose outward appearance doesn't tell you everything you need to know about him. Her younger sister Katie is another. Katie is autistic and I think actually the first character with autism that I've seen in a young-adult book. I liked the bond between the two sisters and the way that Holly is so protective towards her.
Although I didn't enjoy 'By Any Other Name' quite as much as 'Skin Deep' which I was literally head over heels for, it was still a thought-provoking and excellent read, which was well-written and proves once again what a brilliant writer Laura Jarratt is.