November 13, 2006

Hiding from Fate, Just in Case

This book is a 2006 Cybil Award Nominee for YA Fiction.

Sometimes life itself is just... blinding. David Case has one such blinding moment when he sees his small brother teetering on the edge of a window sill. Suddenly possible futures collide: what if his brother had fallen? What if he walked into a truck today -- tomorrow? What if he's hit by a plane, trips and breaks his neck on a sidewalk, falls asleep and never awakens? It's as if lightning has ripped through David's mind. Suddenly he's awake -- all too awake -- and he's terrified. Convinced that something evil is waiting right around the corner, David becomes obsessed with his mortality. He changes his name to Justin, he changes his wardrobe, and he changes his whole identity in order to hide -- from Fate. But in hiding and running away, David misses some of the unexpected gifts from a life in this world -- new friends, hidden surprises, the relief and joy of survival, and the love of those around us.

Told in a darkly comic style that may baffle some younger readers, Meg Rosoff's novel leaves unspoken the labels by which we name the mental ailments which paralyze us with a fear of fate. David's parents are portrayed as hopelessly clueless about not only his mental state, but his life, and the other young adults in the novel are portrayed as clearly wiser than any adult, which adds to the surreal, allegorical feel of the piece. Readers will come away bemused and thoughtful (and possibly carefully eyeing toddlers who can't yet speak for deep philosophical ideologies), and perhaps not quite sure what the novel is about. Older readers will enjoy Justin Case as a comically serious look at living in our fear-mongering culture, and will take it as a reminder that it won't do anyone any good to try to hang on to contingencies -- we have to live as fully as if it were all going to end today - just in case it does.


Anonymous said...

It baffled the adult reader somewhat as well, to the point where I asked myself, "do I care?" I put it down halfway through and can't really say that I'm sorry.

Anonymous said...

Well, it's certainly not an easy read; halfway through I wasn't as amused, for sure.

Anonymous said...

For me it wasn't about the ease of reading or not, but that it was just so incredible and flat-out bizarre. I'm all for experimentation, but this felt like most modern art looks: a series of ideas thrown together with no consideration for the people who have to look at it.