Review: Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff

Picture Me Gone coverVerdict:
Title: Picture Me Gone
Author: Meg Rosoff
Publish Date: 5 September 2013
Publisher: Puffin
Pages: 208
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Mystery, Real Life
Source: Spinebreakers (finished copy)

Picture Me Gone is extremely original in one specific way: the writing style. I have never read a book by Meg Rosoff before (although, I am now dying to read 2004′s How I Live Now before it hits cinemas) so I am not sure if this is the usual method of writing which Rosoff deploys. Although I’m more or less 95% positive that it is unique compared to her other novels because it seems that protagonist Mila is a reincarnation of a dog. I have come to this conclusion because Mila tends to divert down subjects quickly, have an almost sixth sense to the emotions of others and the first sentence reads: “The first Mila was a dog,” suggesting she is said dog in question.

At first I was severely worried about this unique way of writing as it seemed the novel was for younger readers around the 12-14 age bracket. But as the story continued on, the language grew in poetic beauty and it dealt with teenage themes.

Mila raised ideas that I am sure most of us have pondered over in the past and it is good to witness these on the page as we feel comforted to know we are not the only ones who think up these insignificant details. For example, her father Gil works as a translator and one of his friends Nicholas grew up in a household where his parents spoke different languages. Mila explains: “When I ask him which language he thinks in, he says, Depends what I’m thinking about. The idea of having no native language worries me. Would you feel like a nomad inside your own head? I can’t imagine having no words that are home. A language orphan.”

It was these observations and clever imaginative phrasings like “A language orphan” which caused me to stop and re-read the paragraph. The uses of words, to put it bluntly, were exquisite.

Despite the plot lacking in an all going out adventure, the simplicity of the story was wiser than what I primarily expected. Mila and her father Gil travel to the USA to hunt down Gil’s friend Matthew who has vanished off the face of the Earth. Not a lot happens during their quest meaning that what is most thought provoking is how we delve into Mila’s mind and her perceptions on the missing Matthew.

Mila is an inquisitive child at a mere twelve years old who is the star of the book. Rosoff’s choice of not including quotation marks when characters speak means that everything said can’t be taken as reliable as they have been filtered through Mila’s head. At times she would conflict with her own opinions and wishes: “…perhaps, when I say I long to be a pane of glass, I am lying. I long for partial obscurity at the same time as I long for someone to know me.” Again, this highly intelligent crafted language shares with us that Mila is only human. She is unable to understand herself how she wants to be interpreted by other people.

The more I read Picture Me Gone, the more I was impressed with the novel. It is an ideal length at a short 195 pages so for a time you can escape into the world of Mel and learn more about yourself along the way. Although, I hope connecting with this book doesn’t mean you are a reincarnation of a hound.

Review: Wrongful Death by Lynda La Plante

wrongful deathVerdict:
Title: Wrongful Death
Author: Lynda La Plante
Publish Date: 12 September 2013
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 512
Genre: Crime Fiction, Mystery
Source: Finished copy

The ninth novel in the Anna Travis series sees our DCI heroine investigate the formally closed case of club owner Josh Reynolds, whose death was ruled out as a suicide six months previous. A review of the case is initiated when former colleague of the deceased, now awaiting trial, claims that he holds information indicating that Reynolds was murdered. The peaceful office is railed off the status quo when DCS James Langton includes FBI Agent Jessie Dewar on the case for work experience.

What begins as a closed suicide unravels into a deceitful mess of secrets locked within a dysfunctional family, illustrating the extent which some people will go to protect themselves.

I have never read an Anna Travis novel before, or any material from highly acclaimed author Lynda La Plante to be more precise, and so I was overwhelmed by how much detail and realism was consumed within this book. I anticipated Wrongful Death to be a high action thriller; instead it was a slow burning mysterious drama which was equally as enjoyable. The novel was not subjectively about the investigation itself as it gave a deepful insight into how police operations functioned and the characters, despite some being less sympathetic than others, were well structured.

One of the most successful elements of crime fiction is that you can pick up any book, even if it is the fifth in a series, and have no issues on understanding what has happened in the storyline. Most cases are closed with the end of each book so we are able to start afresh with the next in the series and we acquire a general indication of character personalities through backgrounds morphed into pages, no doubt for those who are entering the series in the middle. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t read the past eight Anna Travis novels as although previous plotlines were referred to, it didn’t damage my reading. The only short continuing case which was mentioned was Langton determined to bring down his nemesis, Fitzpatrick.

What was extremely unique about this novel was that Plante challenged the structure of the regular plot. This allowed for the novel to flow similarly to real life. As well as three investigations taking place: the primarily presumed suicide, the hunt for a missing girl and the drug lord Fitzpatrick case, we also had the tension between Travis and Dewer and a blossoming love life for our protagonist. Most novels tend to focus on the one thing, however, Plante created a perfect balance between the investigations and Anna’s personal life so we were invested both in the characters and the crime mysteries.

At the beginning of the book it was made clear that Travis would be participating in a ten week FBI training course in Quantico, Virginia. Yet, when you are used to the formulaic rules of novel conventions you knew that Travis would never attend the course because the Josh Reynolds case would swallow up her existence and she would believe it to be her duty to see it through until the end, sacrificing a wonderful opportunity. My judgement was totally wrong as Travis does end up jetting off to the states. It was refreshing to see an author having the guts to challenge conventions and this made her fantasy world feel all the more real.

At 512 pages, the length of Wrongful Death was quite draining. Although detail is always important in transporting us into another world, some of the storylines could have been shortened dramatically as they were rather tiresome.

Despite most of the characters being fleshed out and carrying their own personal traits Dewar was one who I felt uneasy towards. Right from the beginning we knew Dewar was going to cause friction on the scene and like most people I was not fond of her, although she was a strong believable individual. However, when Anna returns from the FBI training it was as though Dewar became a 2-D character. Since the novel is from Anna’s perspective it means all the characters revolve around her, however, I was disappointed when we returned to Dewar after approximately 150 pages as she seemed lost within the story. Even though she had undergone a character arc, her unique flare compared to the first sequence had disintegrated. Her importance in the novel simmered away and that was a shame as she held potential.

Wrongful Death is an interesting murder mystery to read, told with a simple and clever writing style from the mind of by Lynda La Plante. It is very easy to straightaway connect with Anna Travis and try to solve the mystery in your own head so I hope to read more material from Plante in the near future.