Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Book review: Just In Case by Meg Rosoff

When 15-year-old David Case saves his baby brother Charlie from falling out of the window, it's not relief that fills the teenager, it's a sense of doom.

To escape Fate, David changes his name to Justin and attempts to disguise himself, physically and metaphorically, from being found. But as Justin navigates family, love and life, he comes to realise that maybe fate isn't something that happens to you.

That's not the best description of Just In Case, but it's the best I can give without spoiling too much. I also confess that much of this book went over my head. It's a novel about fate and how little or how much control we can exert over our paths in life, but I also felt like it was a novel about something more - perhaps a novel addressing some aspects of mental illness? Justin is consumed by terror over his fate, and his angsting, to me at least, seemed much more extreme than that of your average teenager, and that's even without his imaginary dog Boy.

I found the strongest feeling Rosoff got out of me during my reading of Just In Case was dislike. I disliked Justin's parents, who are largely absent for the novel - that was my problem, their son spirals into a depression of sorts and they just let him wander off and stay with strangers and friends. I disliked Agnes, the older, flirty, cool girl Justin falls for. She was selfish and flippant, and I wanted to shake Justin and tell him that she was never going to love him like he loved her.

There were characters I enjoyed, in particular Justin's friend Peter, and Peter's younger but extremely wise sister Dorothea. I feel they were the rational people in the novel, in the absence of any decent adults.

But mostly the novel just confused me. I didn't dislike it - I felt compelled to read to the end and I read the whole thing pretty fast - but I didn't like Just In Case either. It wasn't quite realistic enough for me to relate to it, and it wasn't quite dystopian enough for me to suspend disbelief. Instead, I was left in a limbo of not quite knowing, and it was a disappointing, rather than intriguing, not knowing. Justin may have been consumed by the thought of his fate, but his dilemma didn't consume me.

How I got this book: Purchased

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