Picture me gone (by Meg Rosoff)

5 01 2014

picturemegoneThe blurb of this book does its job perfectly! Luring people into thinking you will get a brilliantly crafted mystery with a (young) teen with a uncommon gift, all in the typical Meg Rosoff style (like the lack of quotation marks for dialogue)…  But never have I been cheated more by a blurb of a book than with this one. Maybe that’s the point, though: thinking you will get a mystery, but instead getting a story of an obviously intelligent yet naive girl (I mean, Mila is 12 and a half…and yes that surprised me!) who has to find out for the first time in her life what it means to be lied to and cheated by the grown-ups in her life. A cheat within a cheat within a cheat… But, I can’t but feel disappointed in this (slender) little book. The misleading blurb aside, I also feel disappointed in what the story turned out to be: the so-called search for her father’s friend who’s suddenly disappeared doesn’t make sense at all! But most of all I didn’t buy Mila’s voice, and that’s the whole conundrum right there.

It’s obvious that Mila has a keen awareness and sense of her surroundings. The way she describes what a house tells her about its inhabitants, the way she can tell how a person feels, that a person is pregnant rather than just tired, it all has a creepy vibe to it too, obviously, which is both intriguing and alienating at the same time. It’s also evident that she must be quite the intelligent 12-year-old and I totally buy that this type of 12-year-old child exists, even though Mila reads like she’s 45 rather than 12. But what I didn’t buy specifically is that Mila repeatedly mentions that she can read her surroundings (so far so good), but also says that she cannot tie the clues together, which doesn’t make sense if the premise of your whole story is that we are dealing with a gifted child and your gifted child is the narrator of your story. Mila says for instance very early on in the novel: “I have a keen awareness of where I am and what I’m doing at all times. I am not given to dreaminess, I have a terrier’s determination. If there is something to notice, I will notice it first.” (p. 3) If that is in fact true, then saying you can’t tie the clues together is some serious lack of consistency here.  Unfortunately, this is also what made it really hard to connect with the protagonist of this novel and there’s nothing worse than a lack of connection when you’re reading.

Which brings me to the obvious conclusion and that is that Picture Me Gone has actually reinforced my previous idea about Meg Rosoff’s books: it’s a case of “It’s me, not you…”. I had this feeling with How I Live Now as well, even though I couldn’t really put my finger (paw) on it, gave her another shot with What I Was, but now…  The closest I get to describe what I feel about Rosoff and her novels is that I somehow sense this whole ‘aura’, which is some sort of magical disorientation but very much done on purpose. We’re constantly reminded (in the writing style, in the choice of character, etc.) that there’s something more to these books than what we read. It’s like her books are quietly shouting out at you: “Don’t you get it? There are layers and layers here, and there are metaphors. And look here: Gil’s a translator, this is MEANINGFUL. DON’T YOU GET IT????” And then I’m like: “Sorry, I must be missing something…”  Maybe I’m just like Mila claims to be: I see all the pieces of the puzzle right there in front of me, but I can’t actually make the puzzle. I’m missing that very last crucial piece: purpose and direction.

Also, Meg Rosoff likes dogs… and the cat…well, the cat…

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