Just In Case

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CARNEGIE MEDAL WINNER – 2007

Just In Case

by Meg Rosoff

Age: 14+

Interests: teen angst, first love, fate, illness, death, coming of age, fashion, loneliness

Wendy Lamb Books: 2006

246 pages, 59 chapters

Also by this author: How I Live Now, What I Was, There is No Dog

15-year-old David Case becomes obsessed with the thought that Fate is out to get him, and the only way to avoid disaster is to go into hiding and adopt a brand new persona. With a new name (Justin), a bizarre new wardrobe, and an imaginary greyhound at his side, he quickly mystifies and alienates nearly all of his old friends at school. The only friends he’s got left are his supernaturally wise baby brother Charly, his nerdy but zenlike classmate Peter, and 19-year-old Agnes, a fashion photographer in search of a new model. Tormented by hallucinations and voices, Justin’s fragile mental state is further shaken up by a close-call plane crash, but even more by a brief affair with Agnes. On the verge of total breakdown, Fate finally deals him the blow he was expecting all along, as Justin contracts meningitis and slips into a coma. His family and friends gather in the hospital as he debates whether or not he should rejoin the living.

An unusual and compelling look at teen angst and morbidity. Despite the magical realism, the story feels very real, especially in its vision of the teen mind: intense, nearsighted, selfish, lazy, melodramatic, and compulsively pessimistic. The actual participation of Fate, in short bursts of menacing monologues, imbue Justin’s fantasies with an element of reality. It’s also darkly funny. I particularly liked how the new tragic Justin, vulnerable and skittering on the edge of total collapse, suddenly becomes irresistible to all the girls in his high school.

The very short chapters make this book difficult to put down; it’s a compelling, quick read. While not a difficult read, I’ve given it a higher age rating mainly because of the sexual content, which is still fairly tame (nothing graphic). The final lesson of the book, lightly touched upon, is that there are people who care about you, even if they don’t ‘get’ you, and that there is nothing to be gained by railing against Fate.

(available at amazon.com)

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All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.