Review of I’ll Take Everything You Have

I’ll Take Everything You Have I’ll Take Everything You Have
by James Klise
High School    Algonquin    288 pp.
2/23    9781616208585    $17.99
e-book ed.  9781643753652    $11.99

Intent on saving his family farm during the Great ­Depression, sixteen-year-old Joe arrives in Chicago to work and send money home. Thanks to the cousin he’s staying with, he has two jobs lined up. One is working in the kitchen of a hotel. The other involves taking French classes at a local church; collecting his wealthy classmates’ names, addresses, and travel dates; and passing the information along to criminals who plan to rob the homes while their occupants are vacationing abroad. Despite his reservations, Joe goes along with the scheme and is drawn inexorably into a web of lies, deceit, blackmail, and murder. With elements of noir, the plot is further complicated by a love triangle: Eddie makes deliveries to the hotel, Raymond is in his French class, and Joe becomes romantically involved with both. As trouble catches up to Joe, he’s forced to flee Chicago, but he’s reluctant to leave the queer community he’s found and finds little solace in the idea of returning home. Klise deftly manages to balance a number of elements in Joe’s first-person narration: his gradual transition from wide-eyed innocence toward criminal activity, the complicated motivations of secondary characters, convincing dialogue, and an aura of danger and suspense. The historical setting and secretly queer characters may appeal to fans of Lo’s Last Night at the Telegraph Club (rev. 3/21). An author’s note gives brief historical background and suggestions for further reading.

Pubissue-From the May/June 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Jonathan Hunt
Jonathan Hunt is the coordinator of library media services at the San Diego County Office of Education.

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