Just In Case starts out whimsical, with hints of twee. Boy feels uncomfortable in skin and relentlessly pursued by Fate, boy changes name and allows random stranger in thrift shop to select him outfit, boy assumes new identity and imaginary dog. But from the beginning you know that it’s smarter than it appears, with ‘incipient catastrophe’ indeed.
David Case realizes suddenly and alarmingly that Bad Things Might Happen, and that Fate is a wily bitch, so he changes his name to Justin. The thrift shop and new identity (and, sort of accidentally, the imaginary dog) are an effort to deflect Fate’s eye, which is just as silly as it sounds, but David/Justin is a teenager and you know how they are. Also, I think the Brits have a leg-up on us because they have words like ‘gormless’ which are inherently hilarious and make their prose seem effortlessly amusing.
So it’s fun and slightly odd and Justin is having some romantic mishaps, but this book has deep, dark pockets. Justin loses his damn mind for a piece following an airport disaster, and it is lightheartedly chilling. Much of you is rubbernecking delightedly, but much of you is like, Yikes.
I’m pretty sure I’ve said this before re Her Rosoffness: this is YA that presumes smart teens. Not brainy teens, but savvy ones. Just In Case is rife with Deep Questions Disguised in Narrative. I know authors who would be all, And then Justin wondered to himself what Fate was and what will was and whether you could tell the difference between a real dog and one you made up and whether it mattered, but Rosoff excels at implicity. Bring your spade, because you will be doing some digging.
And for the first time ever there were hints of magical realism and I wasn’t rending my garments in an attempt to establish some sort of discernable world-building. CERTAIN OTHER PEOPLE CAN SEE THE IMAGINARY DOG, and this is never explained and yet it did not make me want to vomit. Am I evolving as a reader? I shall have to litmus test myself with some Hakuri Murakami.