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What July Knew by Emily Koch - Review

Friday, October 28, 2022

I previously read and reviewed Keep Him Close by Emily Koch, so when I got an email from Penguin Random House offering me the chance to read her new book, I jumped at it. Thank you to Penguin Randon House for allowing me to read the book for review purposes. I was not otherwise compensated for this post and all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

So, July lives by the seaside with her dad, Mick, her stepmother, Auntie Shell, and her stepsister, Sylvie, who is also in her class at school. It's July's tenth birthday, right at the end of the summer term, and the class is set a project over the summer to write something about a relative in their family. The teacher encourages July to write about her mum, who July barely remembers, and who died in a car crash on July's second birthday. July knows though that her dad will be angry if she does, because in ten years of her life she has only managed to learn eighteen things about her mum, things which she keeps written down in one of her Big Lists. She tries to decide on someone else, but then she gets a note that says 'your mum didn't die in a car crash'. July gets a bike for her birthday, from her mum's mum Yaya, which means she can go off and explore the place where she and her parents used to live. 

Things are not good at home. July's dad Mick is abusive towards her, telling her each time that he is teaching her a Lesson so that she learns how not to piss him off. The abuse is pretty bad, and gets worse throughout the book. Shelley lives on tenterhooks around him to try to keep the peace between him and July, meaning she blows hot and cold on July in a way that is sometimes confusing. Similar goes for Sylvie - at school the two girls barely speak, and often Sylvie seems to be Mick's favourite. But Sylvie does give July some information that sets her off on the trek to find out more about her mum.

The book is mostly set in 1995, in the middle of a heatwave, and that oppressive heat does hang over the whole book. There are also letters set later, which make the reader assume some things, which I liked a lot. One of my criticisms is that I think there were a few things which were anachronistic for 1995 - I was 11 that year so I remember it well and remember being almost July's age. My other criticism is that July and Sylvie skewed a little bit older than ten years old to me. I think if they had been twelve years old I would have found that much more believable. But neither of these things was a big deal because I really liked the book and was compelled to keep reading it. 

I'm giving this four out of five and am looking forward to what Emily writes next!

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