Just days before scheduled to travel with her father to America to visit his old friend Matthew, 12 year old Mila and her father receive the news that Matthew has suddenly disappeared without any warning or trace. Mila and her father take off on a roadtrip across the USA to look for Matthew, unravelling a mystery and learning truths about growing up.
I found this to be a hard book to get into, but as the narrative progressed I became more and more interested in how the journey would end. Meg Rosoff has an uncanny skill in luring the reader in and then suddenly changing the subject, compelling the reader to keep on turning that page.
As I read, I considered what age-group I would personally recommend this novel for, and if I’m honest, I’m still not sure of my answer! Written with heavy use of descriptive language, this book might not appeal to readers who are in the same age group as the protagonist. But at the same time, Mila’s inner thoughts are written in a way so that a younger audience may relate.
“At Suzanne’s, I Googled cases of people who suddenly walk away from their homes or families. Some of the reasons are: madness, amnesia, money problems, marital woes, secret second family, depression, fired from job but hasn’t told wife, crisis of religious faith or near death experience, terrible secret, kidnapping, mental illness, doesn’t know why…
Many of these reasons are confusing. Why wouldn’t you tell your wife if you’d lost your job? What’s so bad about a crisis of faith? What sort of secret? Someday I’ll understand more of these thing…”
Although listed as “children’s fiction” and YA (young adult), in many ways this novel did not read as “children’s fiction”, and I think would be better suited to an older audience (say 15+). However, what with typical teenage ego, I wouldn’t be certain if an older audience would read a novel with a younger protagonist! I think that rather than depending on the readers age, the suitability of this novel should be decided based on the readers maturity.
The one element I personally found completely unnecessary is that Mila refers to her parents by their first names. At first, I wasn’t sure if this was a cultural thing, it if this book was possibly set in the future, or if it was simply a nod to the “coming of age” narrative. It is my opinion that the majority of readers who Meg is aiming to appeal to will find Mila’s reference to her parents by their first names to be awkward. Irrespective of her reasoning, I thought it an entirely unnecessary choice and it annoyed me throughout my reading of Picture Me Gone.
But before potential audiences are frightened off, let me say that this is an interesting read, and that Picture Me Gone focuses on themes that aren’t frequently considered in this genre of literature. Alcoholism, depression and death are all meshed into this story, making it a very thoughtful read. Again, while I would question the suitability of this novel for “children’s fiction”, Meg Rosoff considers themes thoughtfully and is subtle in their conclusion, making it a very gentle introduction for young teenagers to the “adult world”.
Where Can You Get It?
To buy Picture Me Gone for a great price and have it shipped straight to your door for free, follow this link to the Book Depository.