Putnam Juvenile (an imprint of Penguin), 256 pages
US Release Date: October 3, 2013
Format/Source: Print ARC, Around the World Tours - thank you!
Challenges: Contemporary Challenge, Standalone Challenge
Printz Award-winning author Meg Rosoff's latest novel is a gorgeous and unforgettable page-turner about the relationship between parents and children, love and loss.
Mila has an exceptional talent for reading a room—sensing hidden facts and unspoken emotions from clues that others overlook. So when her father’s best friend, Matthew, goes missing from his upstate New York home, Mila and her beloved father travel from London to find him. She collects information about Matthew from his belongings, from his wife and baby, from the dog he left behind and from the ghosts of his past—slowly piecing together the story everyone else has missed. But just when she’s closest to solving the mystery, a shocking betrayal calls into question her trust in the one person she thought she could read best.
And so, perhaps, when I say I long to be a pane of glass, I am lying. I long for partial obscurity at the same time that I long for someone to know me.
It is confusing and difficult being me.
There is a sadness that permeates this entire novel. It weaves itself into all the worlds, all the settings and thoughts. It's not overwhelmingly sad like how I felt while reading Safekeeping by Karen Hesse, but there's a distinct melancholy. Something that makes me feel like I'm searching for a lost cause. And while that's perfect in terms of the actual story and what Mila and Gil are doing, sometimes I had to close the book just to breathe and remember the world is, in fact, ok.
Picture Me Gone isn't so much of a coming-of-age book; but more a losing-your-innocence book. It's having to grow up, of having to face adult decisions and consequences, while learning there is a darkness to people and sides that we try to hide. It's a little heartbreaking to be in Mila's head as she learns to wrap her thoughts around the darkness hidden in people, but at the same time it makes you love her more and want to wrap her in a hug and protect her. There's a sense of pride I have for her, too, that she's able to process all that she and Gil learn about her father's friend, that she understands these are the life lessons she's been told most her life she'll have to understand when she's older.
Seriously up for discussion: what did you think of Meg Rosoff not using quotation marks? Of not making the distinction of dialogue and who exactly was speaking? I personally found it intriguing and a good choice. It feels a little more like being in a 12-year-olds head. Plus, I felt like we followed the story a little better and that we really got into the rhythm of the plot. To know who is speaking to whom, you have to follow closely, and I feel like without the quotes it let us fall into it a little more. But still...anyone hate it? Think it was too weird?
There are so many different personalities in this book, and I found myself being pulled almost equally to all of them. Even when some of the personalities aren't necessarily good ones, there's something distinct, endearing almost, about all of them. I loved that Gil is quiet and spare, his words measured and his thoughts logical. I adore Mila and her ability to read situations, because sometimes I feel just like her: seeing too much from so little and feeling like it's a punishment and a power. Matthew and Suzanne are not made to be positive characters, but there's something to both that you see a bit of people you love in them. They make you clench your fist as you put your arm around their shoulders, you know? And I found the element of Mila's best friend, Catlin, to be interesting. I like how their relationship as children still mirrored adult situations, how a friendship made when they were so young and doing childish things can still teach her lessons about being an adult and growing up. Even though I think Catlin is ultimately a negative in Mila's life, I can appreciate the positives she catalyzes.
I know I've said a lot of things that are dark or sad, but there's actually a lot of love and sweetness throughout this entire book, too. A lot of it is from family - Marieka and Gil especially - and the trust and belief we have in them. There's moments of comfort and happiness. While I don't really like Honey's devotion to Matthew, it's still something that makes you smile amidst the rest of the confusion. It's nice to know that even though there's questions and deception all around, there can also be true loyalty and an unfailing love.
Picture Me Gone is a serious book, with serious lessons and sweet moments (Jake!) interspersed. It is a book meant to make you think, to consider humanity and personality and who we are to others. It is one that makes you think of the darkness you hide, the secrets you keep hidden, and the why to all of it. But there's also enough in here that reminds you of those people you hold close, of the ones who do bring you hope and light the way in darkness.