Saturday, December 26, 2009

Just in Case by Meg Rosoff

Meg Rosoff's
sophomore effort Just in Case shows off her innate ability to speak like a teen - even if it is a deranged teen in a self-proclaimed state of doom. Fifteen-year-old Justin Case is such a teen. He in convinced Fate is out to get him.

And, as it turns out, Fate is in fact out to get him, as we find out through a few snippets of the book narrated by a very eerie and unnerving "Fate" - very much like Markus Zusak's "Death" narrator in The Book Thief. For most of the book, though, Rosoff speaks in an omniscient third person that flitters from person to person, a tactic that at first feels forced, but readers will eventually ease into it as the novel becomes a truly genuine - and, at times, painful - coming of age story.

The book is littered with quirky characters that readers will either love or hate. Justin himself possesses an imagination rivaling that of Hamlet or Macbeth. His best friend talks like a nerdy physics professor and has a poster of the periodic table in his room. Rosoff philosophically blends tragedy with theories of relativity and metaphysics. All this combined, she has created something that young and old adolescents alike will be able to connect with. An intricate balance of cold, hard reality (Justin's not-so-magical "first time") and utter fantasy (a dog that only a few characters can see plays a major role) forms this story of devastation and depression as Justin comes of age. But unlike many other similar books of the genre, Just in Case will not leave you feeling depressed, but merely contemplative.

Fate may be playing games with Justin, but Rosoff isn't playing games with her readers. She's a straight shooter. I imagine an older woman, a chain smoker, cackling and saying, "Life sucks, and then you die, kid. But it's not as bad as it seems - that's just the way life is." This is one of many themes Just in Case has to offer.

At times, the writing may feel a little gimmicky or forced. It pretty much reads like the second book of a talented author that is still trying to find her way. But overall it is enjoyable and I imagine teens will eat it up and ask for seconds.

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