Tuesday 12 December 2017

Complex tale of adult world seen through eyes of youth

Young ADULT Picture Me Gone Meg Rosoff Puffin, £12.99, hbk

Available with free P&P on www.kennys.ie or by calling 091 709350

British writer Meg Rosoff is best known for her last book, How I Live Now, a bestseller made into a movie with Saoirse Ronan. That was about an American girl, sent to the English countryside to stay with relatives, who finds love at a time when the world is engulfed by war.

The central character of Rosoff's new novel, Picture Me Gone, is Mila, a teenager with a gift for discerning the truth. She peers into souls saying: "I register every emotion, every relationship, every subtext. If someone is angry or sad or disappointed, I see it like a neon sign. There's no way to explain it, I just do. For a long time I thought everyone did."

Mila has to go with her father Gill on a quest to seek his oldest friend, Matthew, who is missing in America. She goes with a warning from her mother, who says: "Do be careful, my darling, families can be so complicated."

We see complexities in many ways. Through the knotty, maudlin tale of Matthew's family life, but also through the glimpses of Mila's life back in London, and her friendship with Catlin, the troubled daughter of bickering London parents.

Rosoff gets us right to the heart of Mila's confusion at a world teeming with adult problems and miseries: infidelity, marital collapse, the death of a child. Mila learns that the world is "imperfect, dangerous, peppered with betrayals" and that parents are capable of confusing falsehoods.

Remember Oscar Wilde's dictum? "Children begin by loving their parents; after a time they judge them; rarely, if ever, do they forgive them." Mila comes out rather better. Despite her confusion, she has a firmer grip on reality than most of the adults and has a charitable heart.

Picture Me Gone is a rewarding coming-of-age tale.

MARTIN CHILTON

Irish Independent

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