Just in Case by Meg Rosoff
Published by: Penguin
Where to Find: Goodreads | Amazon
Maddie and I read this book as part of our school’s book club and whereas Maddie has had some experience with Rosoff’s writing style – she reviewed How I Live Now – I have not.
I wouldn’t say that I enjoyed the story, but I didn’t particularly dislike it either. The recommender of this book said that it would ‘make you think’ but at the end, I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to be thinning about. Fate, maybe? The premise is that David Case has a bad run in with fate, so decided to hide for it. He changes his name to Justin (Just in Case, geddit?) from then on he meets Agnes and she helps him change his look. The book is narrated in third person, with some first person chucked in there to represent fate chasing Justin down. Reminiscent of The Book Thief’s death as a narrator.
It’s quite a strange story as all that really happens is Justin’s slow decline into depression and other illnesses. The majority of the themes in the novel came down to two things: sex and religion. Sex was one of the main things Justin thought about, and it was interesting to see how his perception of love and physicality changed his life. The religion side of things comes from Boy, the dog. The invisible dog. I’m pretty sure he was supposed to be a metaphor for God, but I could be mistaken. My evidence for this is when Peter says, “Take Boy. Does he exist or doesn’t he? You see him, I see him. Is that enough to vouch for his existence?” When Boy isn’t in Justin’s life he seems worse off and unsure of himself, which could suggest that the dog is symbolic of faith in something, perhaps not a deity, but just something.
Just In Case focussed a lot on character relationships. Agnes and Justin’s relationship was dangerous because it was one sided. Justin and Peter’s friendship was mutual and co-dependent. Justin’s relationship with his brother was endearing and relied on a mutual understanding, which is hard to achieve when you’re brother is only one. The sections with Charlie, the brother, were my favourite parts, because I liked ‘looking’ into a child’s mind. Rosoff’s presentation of a child’s cognitive ability versus their ability to produce language was something I appreciated, probably because I’m currently studying Child Language Acquisition in my English Language lessons.
I was disappointed with the ending, because I thought it would surmount to more. We left Justin in a rather precarious position and, apart from the afterword from death, everyone’s endings are pretty ambiguous. After the book group’s discussion of Just In Case I may well add to this review, but for now I’ll give it 2.5 stars, we’ll see how my opinion changes with further discussion.