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The International Writers Magazine: Young Fiction

Just In Case By Meg Rosoff
Puffin Books
ISBN- 978-0-141-31806-6

Anna Bennett

It’s hard to know where to begin writing this review about such an extraordinary book. It’s strange, haunting, humorous and deeply moving, and unlike any book I have ever read. I am not just referring to the plot here, although that alone is very original and extremely unique.

The devices used by Rosoff enhance the chilling character of ‘Fate’, and the internal thoughts of a child. Rosoff doesn’t use speech marks when ‘Fate’ is talking, but instead bold print. Also the language ‘Fate’ uses is almost like he is talking in riddles, which gives him power, and a sense of omnipotence. He is everywhere. The ‘baddie’ of the book is unveiled, and by the end he began to get into my head as well as Justin’s.

Justin Case- the lead character. Fifteen years old. Previously David Case, until one day he finds his one year old brother, Charlie, attempting to climb (or as Charlie puts it, ‘fly’) out of a window. David saves Charlie’s life, but at what cost to his own? He becomes convinced the fate is after him, and must run, must hide, must escape even himself. He changes his name to Justin Case, and his entire persona must change too. He creates a new world for himself, in which lives his imaginary, Boy. He heads to a charity shop to revamp his wardrobe. This is where he meets Agnes. Agnes is about to change Justin’s life entirely. Instantly Agnes excepts what Justin tells her about fate and death, and although she can’t quite understand it, and thinks him somewhat bizarre, she likes him. They form a slightly odd relationship, which, little does Justin know, will turn out to break his already fragile heart.

Many other characters come into the story. Peter, a boy at Justin’s school for one. They become good friends, Peter can even see Boy (Justin’s dog). Peter has a sister, Dorathea, who can also see Boy. This sounds confusing, as surely Boy is in Justin’s imagination? But for some reason I didn’t find myself confused by this. Peter and Dorathea are clearly unique, special, odd even, just like Justin. It seems only right that they should see his dog.

Justin becomes obsessed with the idea of fate gaining on him. He isn't running fast enough, isn't hiding well enough. After a period of living with Agnes, he decides he must spread his wings further still, takes his passport and heads for the airport. But at the airport, he is happy and content. Here he stays until one day Agnes comes to visit. As they are about to embrace, a plane crashes into the spot where Justin was standing only moments before. Fate has found him.
They survive. They go back to Agnes’s and they have sex. She regrets it. He is in love. Their relationship is tainted as far as she is concerned. Justin is heart broken, and becoming more obsessed with fate and death by the day. He starts to lose it, seeing things, hearing things, and he becomes a shadow of his former self.

This book enthralled me from the first page. It’s odd to say, but I felt a connection with Justin. Some times, and I’m sure we all do it, I stop and think about fate, about destiny and my future, and I think ‘What is out there for me?’ For Justin, he feels his days are numbered. Here is a young boy, suffering from love and heartbreak, something we have all suffered. On one hand I would say Justin is depressed, mentally unstable, and quite ill. On the other, I believe that this ‘Fate’ is after him. His parents put his ‘breakdown’ down to teenage angst. How many times did you hear that as a teenager? ‘It’s her hormones’, ‘it’s only a crush’. Justin, I believe you. Sometimes I think ‘Fate’ has it in for me too, although possibly not on quite your scale.

© Anna Bennett November 2007
annielongstockings at

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