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Just in Case    by Meg Rosoff order for
Just in Case
by Meg Rosoff
Order:  USA  Can
Plume, 2008 (2006)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Meg Rosoff, author of How I Live Now, brings us another unusual and original read in Just in Case. Fifteen-year-old David Case believes Fate/Kismet has it in for him and, surprisingly enough, she does take a particular - and not especially benign - interest in his life.

David's crisis is precipitated by his toddling one-year-old brother - who understands him better throughout the story than his particularly clueless parents. David is shocked by Charlie's near fall from his open bedroom window into re-evaluating the risks of life: 'He could fall down a manhole, collapse of a stroke. A car crash could sever his spinal cord. He could catch bird flu. A tree could fall on him ... He became enmired in what if' (I related to this as I remember a similar, though not so personal, teen revelation when I saw a TV show that indicated the sun could blow up - and the world end - at any time.)

Concluding he has to hide from Fate, David reinvents himself as Justin, changes the way he dresses, and acquires an imaginary dog he names Boy. Along the way he catches the interest of the exotic Agnes. She sees him as 'Doomed youth', photographs him, and has her own selfish reasons for befriending him, but Justin falls hard for her. He also acquires a new, very accepting friend at school - Peter Prince, whose younger sister Dorothea also takes an interest in his life. Peter encourages Justin to become a runner - he trains and it gives him hope. Later, he leaves home, deciding that his living at the airport will be safer for everyone, but disaster strikes there too.

There's a betrayal, followed by the crisis Justin's been expecting, after which his small, wise brother tries to tell him 'my side of the story, the side he used to know but has forgotten ... to forget the big scary issues and concentrate on the ones he can control ... Life is easier if you break it down into little segments, little desires and needs you can satisfy right now.' Just in Case is an engrossing, quirky story that gives perspective on teen angst and anxiety about world affairs, and reminds readers that it's wise not to focus on the fickleness of Fate.

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