cover image Just in Case

Just in Case

Meg Rosoff, . . Random/Lamb, $16.95 (246pp) ISBN 978-0-385-74678-6

Rosoff's (How I Live Now ) intriguing, stylized novel explores the nature of fate and one teen's attempt to escape his own destiny. After witnessing his baby brother's brush with death, 15-year-old David Case becomes obsessed with his own mortality and decides to trick fate—and thus prolong his life—by changing his identity. He renames himself Justin Case, exchanges his wardrobe for thrift-shop clothes and befriends an imaginary greyhound, but his efforts to become someone else do not prove effective in quelling his fear that something horrific lies just around the corner. In the meantime, an eccentric young woman photographer discovers him and (much to the hero's horror) turns him into a poster child for "doomed youth." An omniscient, third-person narrative coupled with brief commentaries from all-seeing Fate give the story a surrealistic if not allegorical quality. Children seem older and wiser than their years; adults—especially Justin's mother, who is shockingly blasé about the alterations in her son—are cast as naïve and out of touch. Geared to mature readers with a philosophical bent and an appreciation of irony, the novel shows how, by focusing on his inevitable end, Justin Case almost misses the opportunity to enjoy the gifts fate has to offer: namely, survival, love and friendship. Ages 14-up. (Aug.)