Book Review: Just in Case by Meg Rosoff

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Title: Just in Case

Author: Meg Rosoff

Genre: YA/Contemporary

Number of Pages: 256

Rating: B+

Recommended?: Yes


This book has been on my to-read list for a while, but I was never in all that much of a rush to pick it up because I wasn’t extremely clear on what it was about. Just in Case is a novel that’s a little hard to summarize, and it could also be difficult to explain to people just what makes it work. Basically it’s about a teenage boy named David who’s a pretty run-of-the-mill kid with average problems until his baby brother Charlie almost falls out of a second story window. David rescues him on time, but it causes him to start having a existential crisis about fate and what a thin line exists between business-as-usual and earth-shattering tragedy.


It can be a matter of one or two small events, and then everything you’ve ever cared about has gone to shit. David decides to deal with his realization and ensuing dread in the most reasonable way possible; he recreates himself by utilizing a completely different wardrobe and changing his name to Justin (Justin Case, get it?) He hopes that through ‘becoming’ someone else he can evade the nasty plans fate might have for him. In the process of all this drama, Justin (formerly David) falls head over heels in love with a oddball photographer, is befriended by his super-mellow classmate Peter as well as Peter’s two younger sisters and a monsterously large domestic rabbit, and creates an imaginary dog to follow him around and offer a distinctly canine brand of love and support. And that’s when the really weird stuff starts happening.


First of all, I admire Meg Rosoff’s adept use of deadpan humor and rich imagination. I think she’s probably one of the few writers who can rock the hell out of a third-person omniscient perspective. I also enjoyed the way she chose to make Justin’s reality so subjective that it makes you feel like it doesn’t matter much whether things are ‘real’ or going on in his head. It’s very psychological in that sense, and what’s real to Justin starts to feel real to us too, even if it’s insane.


Justin’s girlfriend Agnes was nineteen, and Justin was only about fourteen. It was treated as no big deal but I wonder if it would have been handled the same way if the genders were switched, it’s not a huge age difference but it still felt a little inappropriate. Honestly, though, I just didn’t care for Agnes’ character in general. She was one of those ‘Oh look how cute I am!’-type love interests, verging dangerously into manic pixie dream girl territory. She was pushy and in-your-face and dressed like the contents of a little girl’s dress-up collection barfed on her. Every time she showed up in a scene the author made sure to describe her outfit and how ‘outlandish’ it was.


Speaking of irritating characters, Justin’s parents were obliviously and stupidly negligent to such a (hopefully) unrealistic extent that I wanted to slap the shit out of both of them. Clueless parents are a common trope in realistic YA fiction but this guy’s mom and dad reach a whole new level of incompetence. I think it kind of worked though because it seems like some elements of this book were supposed to be over-the-top and not exactly anchored in reality. That’s a part of what makes it fun, and the occasional chapters narrated by the character of fate where he eggs Justin on certainly don’t hurt. I think this book would be a great choice for someone who’s sick of constant tropes and recycled plots in young adult literature.


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