Just in case

justincase.jpgBeen hard at work today on novel revisions, but also I finished reading my first Meg Rosoff book. This one was Just In Case, which I enjoyed thoroughly, except for a couple of things that posed problems for me as a reader.

The book is about a boy named David Case, who changes his name to Justin on a day when he comes face to face with the near death of his baby brother, and saves him, but in the process is opened up to the reality that at any moment fate could claim him. So he takes on a new identity in order to avoid his fate. The writing is quite magical, full of Amelie-like moments of wonder and beauty, as well as dark moments in which David/Justin’s relationship to the world is severely damaged. He’s introduced to love by an older girl named Agnes, who is totally the type of girl boys like Justin fall for: bright, artistic, and flighty. She’s a photographer, and helps him create his new image of himself–Doomed Youth–which also happens to be the title of her next exhibition. In any case (no pun intended), the book is full of Justin’s baby brother’s thoughts, animal consciousness, a sort of primal spirit to the world exuding in every moment. Except at various points in the book, it felt like there were important things missing. Justin’s mother and father, for example, who seem like fairly together middle class people in a suburb of London, seem quite all right with him leaving home to live with his girlfriend, then quite all right with him going to live with the family of a friend, with lots of his strange behavior being very apparent to them. I understand parents can be quite ignorant to the fact that their children are going through very real problems, but it seems to me that these parents go beyond ignorance to something different–they seem more like absences altogether, and it not in a way that feels right. They feel like cardboard, and that the author didn’t really take the time to set up a real dynamic between them and Justin to show the reader why they care so little that he’s gone, that in fact he doesn’t even have to run away because they let him go. I feel there can be quite good reasons for this, but I’m still baffled by the end of the book why they’re such ciphers. I don’t need much to go on, but I need something. It was a glaring hole in a story that had captured me in so many other ways–imagistically, emotionally, with a quickly moving pace. I’ve never read Rosoff before, but I do know she’s known for her first novel How I Live Now, which was published as a YA novel a couple of years ago. This novel, and another novel that’s recently been released, have come out as adult, which I find interesting, because they could very well still be considered YA novels. I find this interesting because it seems there’s a blurrier line in readerships for YA/adult books these days, and, because I’m naturally curious, I wonder why that is. At the same time fantastical novels seem to be finding their way into the general fiction shelves, and I wonder if there isn’t some sort of parallel there. If there is, I’m not sure what the root of it is, but I generally like shelves full of a variety of books, rather than categories, so this is good for someone like me. But I’m sure it’s infuriating for other readers who, even if they like a variety of genres, like them to be in different sections of the bookstore so that they can find what they want more readily.

As for Rosoff, I’ll be reading her other novels because I liked so much of this one. I just hope there isn’t a great absence of something important in the other novels, as a grasp on the relationship between a self-destructive, scared boy and his parents was absent in this one. Despite that, it was still a really enjoyable read.

Now off to find something else to read.



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4 responses to “Just in case”

  1. Rick Bowes Avatar
    Rick Bowes

    I read “How I Live Now” about a teenage girl caught in a military occupation of contemporary England. “Riveting But Unlikely” would have been my review. Many things worked remarkably well. Others came out of nowhere. Doesn’t seem to have hurt her popularity – with younger readers especially. The immediate personal relationships are well done. The societal picture doesn’t seem to exist.

  2. Virginie Avatar

    That was my first Meg Rosoff, I really liked it, but like you I was kind of shocked by Justin’s parents. How they absolutely don’t care about their son, it’s terrifying!

  3. Arielle Avatar

    I too read Just In Case as my first Meg Rosoff book and I was very pleased with it. It became one of my top favorite books. Unfortuantly I also noticed the abscence of parental quidence. It seemed as though there was a lack of effort put in to create an understanding of the realtionship between Justin and his parents. But i am looking beyond that and calling this book my favorite.

    1. Christopher Barzak Avatar

      It’s definitely a really fun book. I like lots about it. It was only the parental relationship with Justin that didn’t quite make a lot of sense. A flaw, but not big enough to make me dislike the book at all. 🙂

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