Rosoff, Meg. Picture Me Gone.

NY: Putnam, 2013.

Rossoff has become a noteworthy — and award-winning — author of Young Adult novels but this is the first of hers I’ve read. It definitely won’t be the last. Mila is a very bright and almost preternaturally observant twelve-year-old (“If there is something to notice, I will notice it first”) living in London with her translator father and concert-violinist mother. It’s a quietly loving family and she knows just how lucky she is, especially compared to her best friend, whose parents are splitting up. Her father, Gil, is planning to journey to America during the Easter holiday to visit Matthew, an old friend whom he hasn’t seen in eight years, and since he’s not very good at taking care of himself, Mila is going along to keep an eye on him.

But then his friend’s wife calls to tell him her husband has disappeared — but will Gil come anyway and help figure things out? Yes, of course he will.

So the two of them fly to upstate New York and embark on a quest even farther north in search of the friend, and Mila begins to unravel the puzzles of the past. She meets new people and really likes some of them and is uncertain about others. Her special talent not only enables her to see everything but to see what’s behind it and understand what it all means. (“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 how, I just do. For a long time I thought everyone did. I peer into souls.”) So she can’t believe it when she finally discovers she’s been lied to. And the stories pile up, each affecting and leading to the others.

The author has a terrific way with the language, in addition to telling a deeply involving story. A tired young mother with an infant is “not old but looks pinched, as if someone has forgotten to water her.” Or when she notes the uncomfortable atmosphere in a house, “I just know what a family in which everyone gets along feels like, with all the edges of things blurred and overlapping.” It’s a quiet story, quietly told, but it’s relentless and you won’t want to stop until you reach the end. And the age of the reader really doesn’t matter because a terrific book is a terrific book. Very highly recommended.

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