Review of “Picture Me Gone” by Meg Rosoff

This is a story told from the point-of-view of twelve-year-old Mila, who travels with her father Gil from London to New York State during Easter break to visit his oldest friend Matthew. Mila’s mother, Marieka, cannot go as she has a violin concert that week.

tumblr_mu3pfpfJqY1r0yglfo1_500

Just before Mila and Gil depart, they learn from Matthew’s wife Suzanne that Matthew has gone missing. They decide to go anyway and help find out what happened to him. Mila is convinced she will be of great assistance, since she is very good at reading people and their subtexts just from observing their look, stance, tone, sensing their emotions, and so on. For this reason, she finds it appropriate that she has the same name as her grandfather’s dog, because she judges her skills as similar to those of a terrier. She is careful to clarify that it’s not because she’s “some sort of mystic”:

“Most people don’t pay attention. They barge into a situation and start asking questions when the answers are already there. … I just see a constellation of tiny facts too small for other people to notice. I don’t specifically register each element of the constellation but the overall impression will be clear. The Bear. The Hunter. The Swan.”

[I think this theme would have been better served if Rosoff had not had Mila observe once that a waitress was pregnant, even though she herself did not yet know it.]

The loving relationship that characterizes Mila’s family of three is contrasted with the families of Mila’s best friend Catlin, and of Matthew, Suzanne, and their new baby Gabriel. Although at only age twelve, Mila doesn’t understand everything, she seems to be more perceptive than any of the adults. But sometimes, it’s a bit disconcerting for her:

“Lynda keeps talking like there’s nothing at all weird about a sometimes lesbian, who may or may not be the mother of Gil’s best friend’s secret teenage son, flirting with my father. I feel dizzy.”

“Tell me,” she asks, “is there some huge adult conspiracy where people lead unimaginably complex lives and pretend it’s normal?”

The messiness of the adult world makes Mila appreciate the pristine beauty of a snowstorm even more:

“We’ve left the town and are driving through a hilly landscape that’s white as far as the eye can see. Fences and stone walls have become soft slopes, and farmhouses wear high slouchy hats. Everything looks clean and new and I like this world of perfection despite knowing that all sorts of barbed wire and dead things lie beneath.”

Sometimes it makes her angry: “I am a child,” she wants to shout to her father: “Protect me.”

In the end, she settles on the knowledge that the world is “imperfect, dangerous, peppered with betrayals and also with love.” And she dreams of a future that, unlike the present, she knows nothing about.

Evaluation: I thought this book was very good, but I didn’t love it. Nevertheless, I’m very happy I read it, and want to read more of this author’s work. She has won a number of awards, is quite well-regarded, and offers, in this story, an often lovely rumination on the powerlessness as well as the perceptiveness of childhood.

Rating: 3.5/5

Note: Picture Me Gone was a finalist for the 2013 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature (U.S.).

Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2013

Advertisements

About rhapsodyinbooks

We're into reading, politics, and intellectual exchanges.
This entry was posted in Book Review and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Review of “Picture Me Gone” by Meg Rosoff

  1. Thank you for the mention! Is this your first Rosoff, then? I love all her books, but I think I’d recommend How I Live Now as a good one to pick up next.

  2. Beth F says:

    Hum. Not quite sure this is a book for me but I’m also not sure why I think that. (Maybe I need more coffee!)

  3. sandynawrot says:

    How I Live Now was amazing (and it has just been made into a movie!). But I’d heard that this one did not quite resonate with her fans like her other novels, so I didn’t rush out to read it. I do respect the author enough to probably read her back list at some point.

  4. Havent heard of this one… probably not one I would seek out 😉

  5. The adult world is messy and far too many kids are thrust into it too soon. This sounds interesting.

  6. Kailana says:

    I kind of go back and forth on Rosoff. I really like her or I strongly dislike her. For this reason it takes me forever to get to her books nowadays. (How I Live Now was really good, though!)

  7. I agree about the waitress/pregnancy thing! It would have been fine if she’d observed things about the waitress up to then that indicated that the waitress was pregnant, instead of being all Sherlock Holmesy about it.

    I generally do not love Meg Rosoff as much as Ana does, but I did anyway like Picture Me Gone quite a bit.

  8. Athira says:

    Oh I have to read this one. It seems to remind me of the Aimee Bender series though, but only with the perceptive stuff.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s