Challenge 25 ~ “A book you were supposed to read in school, but didn’t.”
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Just In Case was on the Carnegie shortlist during my first year at high school. In fact, it won the Carnegie medal, but it was one of the few I didn’t get time to read that year. The others in the shadowing groups had low opinions of the book, and so once the results had been announced I was deterred from reading it – there were so many good books out there, why would I waste time reading one that everyone seemed to think wasn’t worth it? On the other hand, if I haven’t read it, how do I know it wasn’t the best on the shortlist? Someone must have liked it for it to make the longlist, let along win the medal!
Maybe I overthink things, though, because I have to say I agree with my fellow shadowers – Just In Case was not the most deserving winner of the Carnegie medal (especially when up against the likes of Marcus Sedgwick, Kevin Brooks and Siobhan Dowd!) It was a book that required a lot of thinking, but not because it’s addressing the hard questions in life, or presenting some philosophical wonderings. I have struggled for long periods of time as to the reasoning behind the book – what is it trying to say, and what is the story? Who is Fate? – Is he simply fate characterised? Is the book a larger metaphor on life? Or is Fate just part of Justin’s conscience? I’ll save you the effort – the book is simply as it seems.
Thankfully, there is a plotline to the book, but I can’t say it’s a very stable one. Some scenes were spot on, others a little less favourable, and more still that were frankly horrific – take, for example, the part with the rabbit. The characters accompanying these weren’t particularly great either, and that’s even if we ignore the obnoxious Fate. The language and writing style, however, was passable.
If I hated the novel so much, why did I award it a star? Underneath it all, there was potential, and this can be further seen in Rosoff’s future works – they get better, if only marginally in some cases. If Just In Case were to be re-written, there would be elements and portions that could make it through unscathed, but large swaths of the book would have to be reconstructed entirely. Unless you have a particular burning desire to read, I wouldn’t recommend it – there are better works out there, both by Rosoff and other authors, and really, life’s too short.