Just in Case

( 15 )

Overview

David Case never questions his ordinary suburban life — until one fateful day, a brush with death brings him face to face with his own mortality. Suddenly, everywhere he looks he sees catastrophe, disaster, the ruin of the human race, the demise of the planet...not to mention (to pinpoint the exact source of his anxiety) possible pain and suffering for himself.

So he changes his name, reinvents his appearance, and falls in love with the seductive Agnes Bee — in the hope that ...

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Overview

David Case never questions his ordinary suburban life — until one fateful day, a brush with death brings him face to face with his own mortality. Suddenly, everywhere he looks he sees catastrophe, disaster, the ruin of the human race, the demise of the planet...not to mention (to pinpoint the exact source of his anxiety) possible pain and suffering for himself.

So he changes his name, reinvents his appearance, and falls in love with the seductive Agnes Bee — in the hope that he'll become unrecognizable to Fate and saved from his own doom. With his imaginary greyhound in tow, Justin Case struggles to maintain his new image and above all, to survive in a world where twists of fate wait for him around every corner.

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Editorial Reviews

Sunday Times of London
Extraordinary and original . . . this sophisticated meditation on death, madness and sexuality is powerful and tenaciously haunting.
Los Angeles Times
Meg Rosoff is the Queen of Weird.
The Times of London
A modern Catcher in the Rye.
Publishers Weekly
Rosoff's (How I Live Now) intriguing, stylized novel explores the nature of fate and one teen's attempt to escape his own destiny. After witnessing his baby brother's brush with death, 15-year-old David Case becomes obsessed with his own mortality and decides to trick fate and thus prolong his life by changing his identity. He renames himself Justin Case, exchanges his wardrobe for thrift-shop clothes and befriends an imaginary greyhound, but his efforts to become someone else do not prove effective in quelling his fear that something horrific lies just around the corner. In the meantime, an eccentric young woman photographer discovers him and (much to the hero's horror) turns him into a poster child for "doomed youth." An omniscient, third-person narrative coupled with brief commentaries from all-seeing Fate give the story a surrealistic if not allegorical quality. Children seem older and wiser than their years; adults especially Justin's mother, who is shockingly blas about the alterations in her son are cast as na ve and out of touch. Geared to mature readers with a philosophical bent and an appreciation of irony, the novel shows how, by focusing on his inevitable end, Justin Case almost misses the opportunity to enjoy the gifts fate has to offer: namely, survival, love and friendship. Ages 14-up. (Aug.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
VOYA - Julie Scordato
At fifteen, David Case has a pretty average life in England. After a near accident with his toddler brother, however, David realizes that Fate is out to get him. Whether by disease or by accident, he is certain that Fate is going to snuff him out-and not in seventy years or so. David decides to hide by changing his wardrobe and even his name to Justin. While Justin's anxiety and depression deepens, Fate defends and to a degree explains itself in just the sort of sly, distant tone that one would expect from it. As weeks pass, Justin's misadventures include going to the airport instead of a class trip to Wales, nearly getting killed by a freak accident, and his first sexual encounter with a girl old enough to live on her own who then betrays him publicly. Justin, however, is forced to lay all his cards out on the table with fate when he contracts meningococcal meningitis and decides that despite life's hidden dangers, it is worth living after all. Readers will identify with Justin's struggle with the larger world and his place in it, and perhaps some readers will be able to identify with his transitions from living with his parents to staying with the older girl and finally with a classmate. In Rosoff's second novel, which follows her Printz Award-winning How I Live Now (Wendy Lamb Books/Random House, 2004/VOYA December 2004), which is completely different in point of view, flavor, and the main character's coping strategies, the writing is quality and could spark lively discussions about freewill, fate, and relationships that fail before they even start.
KLIATT
AGERANGE: Ages 15 to adult.

To quote the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, July 2006: Rosoff’s first YA novel, How I Live Now, has been highly praised since its publication. When I reviewed it, within a few sentences I was caught up in the voice of the young narrator and her survival story. Just in Case is more complicated. A first-person voice introduces most chapters--that voice is the voice of Fate. Fate is looking at the life of David, a 15-year-old boy living in a small town outside of London. The catalyst for David’s relationship with Fate is when his little brother goes to an open window and nearly falls to his death. David realizes how fragile life is, how closely doom lurks. He changes his name to Justin, trying to hide from Fate. He falls in with an older girl, Agnes, who is a photographer who sees Justin’s potential as a model for “doomed youth.” He is in love with her even while understanding she is using him for her own career. There are other friends, confused parents, an imaginary dog, and a climactic disaster when a plane crashes and people die all around Justin, while Agnes’s camera clicks away. Like How I Live Now, the writing is superb and the plot inventive. There is a touch of British absurdity--not quite Monty Python, but a bit of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, perhaps. I think the novel will appeal to readers who enjoy that approach to telling a story, rather than to the readers who like How I Live Now. I’m thinking readers may be more attached to Agnes than to Justin. Since she is looking back at adolescence with loving concern but a certain detachment, the story will appeal more to the oldest YAs and to adults.Reviewer: Claire Rosser
March 2008 (Vol. 42, No.2)

Children's Literature - Jeanna Sciarrotta
From the moment David Case saves his baby brother from falling out of an open window, he feels like Fate is out to get him. David comes to the realization that no one is safe and his fear begins to take over. Determined to beat the odds that are so obviously stacked against him, David changes his name to Justin—Justin Case—and frantically begins his race to evade the force that stalks his every move. Along the way, Justin picks up some unlikely friends, including the quirky photographer Agnes, whose camera captures the fragile youth in his most vulnerable moments. Bizarre circumstances, including a near-fatal plane crash, smear the line between coincidence and fate further, until even the reader isn't sure of the difference. This novel explores the idea of Fate as an actual character, a gamer, using people as pawns and Justin seems to be the only character that has cracked this secret. This is a powerful novel for contemporary teenagers. Meg Rosoff does not let down fans of her previous award-winning novel How I Live Now. She has written yet another blunt representation of young adults hovering between genius and disaster.
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up-Fifteen-year-old David Case, scared out of his acceptance of dailiness by his baby brother's near calamity at an open window, changes his name to Justin and allows several new people into his life. He is befriended by a somewhat older-and definitely more worldly-girl when he enters a thrift shop to remake his sartorial presentation. Angela is easy to fall in love with, but frustrating for Justin and suspicious for readers. Peter Prince, on the other hand, a new friend who urges Justin to discover how very good he is as a distance runner, lives up to his surname. Justin's baby brother, Charlie, knowing and telepathic since birth, worries that Justin won't ever recover from the shock of having to haul him back from his experiment with flight. Justin's other companions on the journey through the six months between that momentous occasion and Christmas include an invisible dog, Peter's psychologically perceptive sisters, and their male rabbit, Alice. The crisis that flings Justin and Angela literally into bed together is a horrific plane crash at the local airport. As he runs from her gallery show of photos of him in shock in the disaster's aftermath, he collides with a woman from whom he contracts meningitis, nearly allowing Fate to talk him into dying. Only Charlie's visit to the hospital pulls Justin back from the existential abyss at which he has perched for six months. Rosoff writes of these characters and Justin's interior and exterior adventures with beautiful grace and wit. Even sensitive teens usually have more psychological armor than Justin, but Rosoff's made him a compelling hero, not a nerd.-Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Rosoff examines the idea of fate through minutely observed, concatenated catastrophes and the intersection of exquisitely drawn characters (including a delusional protagonist), in an England-set novel as powerful as her Printz-winning debut, How I Live Now (2004). After barely managing to save his toddler brother from "flying" off a windowsill, David Case, almost 16, already struggling with acute anxiety, concludes that only a complete self-reinvention will save him from the sure doom that Fate holds-for his former self. Browsing in a charity shop to outfit the new him, now-Justin meets Agnes, an older, outrageously adorned photographer/fashion designer. She takes on the smitten Justin as a project, capturing his edgy desperation in photos. She rescues him from both a hallucinatory stint at the local airport (where wackily, he temporarily loses his imaginary dog), and (after clicking away voyeuristically with her camera) the bloody aftermath of a plane crash. Justin drifts away-from his outrageously preoccupied parents, school's banality; reality-but also toward connections that keep him this side of sane. Agnes's several betrayals-including her brief sexual attention-rekindle Justin's self-affirming anger. There's Peter, a compassionate, confidently nerdy schoolmate, whose sage little sisters fairly command Justin's emergence from a coma induced by spinal meningitis and prolonged by Justin's urge to surrender to a cynical, beckoning Fate, who vituperates, personified, in bold type throughout. Little Charlie, the ostensible reason for Justin's crackup, telegraphs, like a small, joyful Buddha, an uncomplicated truth that Justin, too, can finally embrace. Funny, ironic, magically real;stunning. (Fiction. YA)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780452289376
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 1/29/2008
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 693,414
  • Product dimensions: 5.18 (w) x 7.82 (h) x 0.59 (d)

Meet the Author

Meg Rosoff was born in Boston, USA. She has worked in publishing, public relations and most recently advertising, but thinks the best job in the world would be head gardener for Regents Park. Meg lives in Highbury, North London. She is the author of Just in Case, What I Was and How I Live Now.

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Read an Excerpt

Just In Case


By Meg Rosoff

Random House

Meg Rosoff
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0385909098


Chapter One

The view is fine up here. I can look out across the world and see everything. For instance, I can see a fifteen-year-old boy and his brother.

1

David Case's baby brother had recently learned to walk but he wasn't what you'd call an expert. He toddled past his brother to the large open window of the older boy's room. There, with a great deal of effort, he pulled himself onto the windowsill, scrunched up like a caterpillar, pushed into a crouch, and stood, teetering precariously, his gaze fixed solemnly on the church tower a quarter mile away.

He tipped forward slightly towards the void just as a large black bird swooped past. It paused and turned an intelligent red eye to meet the child's.

"Why not fly?" suggested the bird, and the boy's eyes widened in delight.

Below them on the street, a greyhound stood motionless, his elegant pale head turned in the direction of the incipient catastrophe. Calmly the dog shifted the angle of his muzzle, creating an invisible guyline that eased the child back an inch or two towards equilibrium. Safer now, but seduced by the fact that a bird had spoken to him, the boy threw out his arms and thought, Yes! Fly!

David did not hear his brother think "fly."

Something else made him look up. A voice. A finger on his shoulder. The brush of lips against hisear.

So that's where we start: One boy on the verge of death. Another on the verge of something rather more complicated.

In the instant of looking up, David took the measure of the situation, shouted "Charlie!" and lunged across the room. He grabbed the child by the cape of his Batman pajamas, wrapped his arms around him with enough force to flatten his ribs, and sank to the floor, squashing the boy's face into the safe hollow beneath his chin.

Charlie squeaked with outrage but David barely heard. Panting, he unpinned him, gripping the child at arm's length.

"What were you doing?" He was shouting. "What on earth did you think you were doing?"

Well, said Charlie, I was bored just playing with my toys and you weren't paying attention to me so I thought I would get a better look at the world. I climbed up on the window which wasn't easy and once I managed to do that I felt strange and happy with nothing but sky all around me and all of a sudden a bird flew past and looked at me and said I could fly and a bird hasn't ever talked to me before and I figured a bird would know what he was talking about when it came to flying so I thought he must be right. Oh and there was also a pretty gray dog on the pavement who looked up and pointed at me with his nose so I didn't fall and just when I was about to leap out and soar through the air you grabbed me and hurt me a lot which made me very cross and I didn't get a chance to fly even though I'm sure I could have.

The little boy explained all this slowly and carefully, so as not to be misunderstood.

"Burr-dee fly" were the words that came out of his mouth.

David turned away, heart pounding. It was useless trying to communicate with a one-year-old. Even if his brother had possessed the vocabulary, he couldn't have answered David's question. Charlie did what he did because he was a dumb kid, too dumb to realize that birds don't talk and kids can't fly.

My god, David thought. If I'd been two seconds slower he'd be dead. My brother would be dead but I'd be the one shattered, crushed, destroyed by guilt and blame and everyone everywhere for the rest of my life whispering He's that kid who killed his brother.

Two seconds. Just two seconds were all that stood between normal everyday life and utter, total catastrophe.

David sat down hard, head spinning. Why had this never occurred to him? 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. There were comets. Killer bees. Foreign armies. Floods. Serial killers. There was buried nuclear waste. Ethnic cleansing. Alien invasion.

A plane crash.

Suddenly, everywhere he looked he saw catastrophe, bloodshed, the demise of the planet, the ruin of the human race, not to mention (to pinpoint the exact source of his anxiety) possible pain and suffering to himself.

Who could have thought up a scenario this bleak?

Whoever (whatever) it was, he could feel the dark malevolence of it settling in, making itself at home like some vicious bird of prey, its sharp claws sunk deep into the quivering gray jelly of his terrified brain. He pulled his brother close, tucking him in against his body, pressed his lips to the child's face.

What if . . . ?

He became enmired in what if.

The weight of it wrapped itself around his ankles and dragged him under.

2

A year earlier, David's father had woken him with a shout.

"David, your mother's home! Aren't you interested in seeing the baby?"

Not really, David thought, burying his head in his pillow. I know what a baby looks like.

But then they were in his room, grinning and making inane noises in the direction of a small, serene-looking creature with jet black eyes.

David sat up with a groan and peered at his new brother. OK, seen him, he thought.

"Of course he can't see you yet." His father, superior as ever. "Babies can't focus properly for weeks."

David was about to go back to sleep when he noticed the new baby gazing at him with a peculiar expression of calm authority.

I'm Charlie, said the new baby's eyes, as clearly as if he had spoken the words out loud. Who are you?

David stared.

His brother repeated the question slowly, politely, as if to a person of limited intelligence. Who, exactly, are you?

David frowned.

The baby inclined his head, his face registering something that might have been pity. Such a simple question, he thought.

But if his brother knew the answer, he gave no sign.

This disturbed Charlie. Over the next few months, he tried approaching his parents for answers, but his father was always at work and his mother seemed strangely ill informed on the subject of her older son.

"He's usually on time," she would comment brightly, or "I wish he'd tidy his room more." But nothing about who he was. And when she caught Charlie staring intently at David, she merely thought, How sweet. They're bonding.

But they weren't bonding. Charlie was comparing the David he knew with the Davids he saw displayed around the house in family pictures. The younger Davids looked cheerful and carefree; they held books or bikes or ice creams and gazed at the camera with expressions of trust. The younger Davids kicked balls, swung from trees, blew out the candles on birthday cakes. They had clear edges and cloudless eyes.

But the David that Charlie knew now was wavery and fizzy with nerves. The new David reminded Charlie of a birthday card he'd seen where the picture of a clown shifted gradually into the picture of a tightrope walker, depending on how you tilted it. Exactly when this transformation had begun, the child couldn't say. According to the photos, his brother's outline had begun to blur sometime between playing football at thirteen and losing his status as only child the following year.

Charlie had spent a good deal of his short life worrying about his older brother. Now he paused in the middle of playing Monkey Rides in a Car with Donkey to gather his thoughts. He saw that his recent attempt to fly had been a mistake. It seemed to have nudged his brother past some invisible tipping point and this filled him with remorse. Charlie wanted to make amends, to offer advice on how David could regain his footing. But he couldn't get his brother to listen.

Or perhaps he was listening, but somehow lacked the capacity to understand. This worried Charlie most of all.


From the Hardcover edition.


Excerpted from Just In Case by Meg Rosoff Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 15 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 15 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 2, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Jennifer Wardrip, aka "The Genius" for TeensReadToo.com

    Now that I've finished reading JUST IN CASE and it's time for me to write my review, I'm having a hard time thinking of how to describe it. I've had the pleasure of reading HOW I LIVE NOW, Ms. Rosoff's Michael L. Printz award-winning book, so I began reading JUST IN CASE with high expectations. I wasn't disappointed, not in the least, and have high hopes for the awards this book will garner over the coming year. It's just that, now that I need to put it in words, it's difficult to describe just who, exactly, the main character in this story is--David Case, now known as Justin, or Fate? I guess the book could be summed up, quite easily, by the words (actually, by the alphabet blocks) of eighteen-month-old Charlie Case: "JUST IN CASE WHAT?" Or, possibly, by the photograph of Agnes, the style-maven with the pink hair, entitled "ANTHEM FOR DOOMED YOUTH." <BR/><BR/>Regardless of how you describe the story, you'll find yourself quickly immersed in the life and times of Justin Case. A teen on the verge of sixteen, David Case is irrevocably changed on the day he saves his baby brother from falling out of an open window. For those of us who are privy to his story, we would see two lucky brothers, one narrowly avoiding a long fall to his death, and one heroic for his quick thinking. For David, though, this break isn't a lucky one. No, this is just one more example of how Fate has it in for him. How can he get away, escape, allude Fate, trick it? He begins by changing his name to Justin, follows it up by becoming even more quiet and withdrawn than he originally was, and finishes it up with a new way of dressing, walking, and talking. <BR/><BR/>When Justin meets Agnes, she immediately takes him under her wing--and uses him for her own purposes, although Justin doesn't realize it at first. Justin is too busy dodging Fate, avoiding certain death, worrying about the ways that Fate can trick him into an early grave. As Justin survives day to day, with the help of Boy, his imaginary dog, and Peter, his not imaginary friend and fellow runner, Justin is unable to see that Fate is still following him, hot on his heels. <BR/><BR/>JUST IN CASE is the story of David, who becomes Justin, who melds into a boy that simply wants to make his own choices in life, rather than having it mapped out for him in advance. It's the story of Agnes, who wants to fix Justin, but in the end doesn't even truly understand the ways in which he's broken. It's the story of Charlie, an abnormally bright child who wishes his brother could forgive himself. It is, most of all, the story of Fate, and Fate's wicked sense of humor. <BR/><BR/>Although it's hard to put JUST IN CASE neatly into a category, I can highly recommend it nevertheless. Once I started this story, I was unable to put it down until the very last word--and even then I was still entranced by Justin Case and his battle with Fate. This book is definitely one worth reading.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 25, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Quite An Unusual Book

    I've never been intrigues in this type of story: 'After finding his younger brother teetering on the edge of his balcony, fifteen-year-old David Case realizes the fragility of life and senses impending doom. Without looking back, he changes his name to Justin and assumes a new identity, new clothing and new friends, and dares to fall in love with the seductive Agnes Day. With his imaginary dog Boy in tow, Justin struggles to fit into his new role and above all, to survive in a world where tragedy is around every corner. He's got to be prepared, just in case.'


    The fist thing I noticed in this book was the cover (which was not like the one displayed on Barnes and Noble - it was like this: http://www.puffin.co.uk/static/images/just_in_case.jpg) It was a very attractive cover which made me pick it out and the book a go.

    This book leads you unto a new perspective of life, where Fate is metaphored and is constantly running after you to try and get you. Justin invents his very own dog which really got to my nerves, because he was constantly addressing him and talking to him and so on so forth.

    I don't regret it but I've found that this book is quite out of the ordinary.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    an insightful allegorical look at life

    Infant Charlie Case is just learning to walk when he enters his older brother¿s room. Fifteen year old David is not paying attention to his much younger sibling who climbs precariously on the sill of the open bedroom window. Charlie watches a bird fly by as he teeters on the ledge. A greyhound sitting outside nudges him back a bit until David happens to look up panicky he pulls Charlie off the windowsill.------------ However the brush with death shakes David to the core while Charlie cannot understand why his brother prevented him from flying with the birds. David begins to see death and disaster on every corner as he begins to comprehend and personify Fate. He decides the only way to beat Fate in the game of personal mortality is to change one¿s identity as Fate will seek to harm David Case, but not Justin Case and alters his image accordingly. However, accompanied by a greyhound that no one else sees, his efforts prove futile as he realizes with each next step he takes ¿This is how the world ends¿ even as photographer Agnes Bee turns him into the symbol of 'doomed youth'.-------------- JUST IN CASE is an insightful allegorical look at life and all it offers through Justin¿s efforts to avoid what he believes is everyone¿s Fate: death. With Fate providing observations on life and death, parents hide in the sand to avoid the issues their teens face. Readers who appreciate a deep thought provoking parable will enjoy Justin Case¿s efforts to survive but not live his life.-------------- Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2007

    Dissapointing

    I really really loved Meg Rossof's first novel, 'How I Live Now'. I wasn't expecting the same thing, but her style is almost completely different. It isn't at all like reading the same author. While the detail is similar to her previous book the reading felt blurred and sort of like watching or reading the last Lord of The Rings without having seen or read the first two books before it. I found myself NOT ABLE TO FINISH this novel and skimmed through the last fourty pages to see what was going on. Justin Case is whiny and annoying - an unlikeable fellow past the first several chapters. The idea that he is paranoid about Fate - while intriguing at first - is annoying and repetitive. The book had little changes in it from the very beginning. You basically read about how suckish he is and how he needs a therapist, until he gets drunk and then is joyous for whatever reason. It's dissapointing and tiring to read. Meg Rossof is a wonderful author, but this is an UNWONDERFUL book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 25, 2006

    Courtesy of Teens Read Too

    Now that I've finished reading JUST IN CASE and it's time for me to write my review, I'm having a hard time thinking of how to describe it. I've had the pleasure of reading HOW I LIVE NOW, Ms. Rosoff's Michael L. Printz award-winning book, so I began reading JUST IN CASE with high expectations. I wasn't disappointed, not in the least, and have high hopes for the awards this book will garner over the coming year. It's just that, now that I need to put it in words, it's difficult to describe just who, exactly, the main character in this story is--David Case, now known as Justin, or Fate? I guess the book could be summed up, quite easily, by the words (actually, by the alphabet blocks) of eighteen-month-old Charlie Case: 'JUST IN CASE WHAT?' Or, possibly, by the photograph of Agnes, the style-maven with the pink hair, entitled 'ANTHEM FOR DOOMED YOUTH.' Regardless of how you describe the story, you'll find yourself quickly immersed in the life and times of Justin Case. A teen on the verge of sixteen, David Case is irrevocably changed on the day he saves his baby brother from falling out of an open window. For those of us who are privy to his story, we would see two lucky brothers, one narrowly avoiding a long fall to his death, and one heroic for his quick thinking. For David, though, this break isn't a lucky one. No, this is just one more example of how Fate has it in for him. How can he get away, escape, allude Fate, trick it? He begins by changing his name to Justin, follows it up by becoming even more quiet and withdrawn than he originally was, and finishes it up with a new way of dressing, walking, and talking. When Justin meets Agnes, she immediately takes him under her wing--and uses him for her own purposes, although Justin doesn't realize it at first. Justin is too busy dodging Fate, avoiding certain death, worrying about the ways that Fate can trick him into an early grave. As Justin survives day to day, with the help of Boy, his imaginary dog, and Peter, his not imaginary friend and fellow runner, Justin is unable to see that Fate is still following him, hot on his heels. JUST IN CASE is the story of David, who becomes Justin, who melds into a boy that simply wants to make his own choices in life, rather than having it mapped out for him in advance. It's the story of Agnes, who wants to fix Justin, but in the end doesn't even truly understand the ways in which he's broken. It's the story of Charlie, an abnormally bright child who wishes his brother could forgive himself. It is, most of all, the story of Fate, and Fate's wicked sense of humor. Although it's hard to put JUST IN CASE neatly into a category, I can highly recommend it nevertheless. Once I started this story, I was unable to put it down until the very last word--and even then I was still entranced by Justin Case and his battle with Fate. This book is definitely one worth reading.

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    Posted May 9, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 3, 2009

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