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  • Just In Case
  • Written by Meg Rosoff
  • Format: eBook | ISBN: 9780307533524
  • Our Price: $9.99
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Just In Case

Written by Meg RosoffAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Meg Rosoff


List Price: $9.99


On Sale: March 25, 2009
Pages: 256 | ISBN: 978-0-307-53352-4
Published by : Wendy Lamb Books RH Childrens Books
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Justin Case is convinced fate has in for him.
And he's right.

After finding his younger brother teetering on the edge of his balcony, fifteen-year-old David Case realizes the fragility of life and senses impending doom. Without looking back, he changes his name to Justin and assumes a new identity, new clothing and new friends, and dares to fall in love with the seductive Agnes Day. With his imaginary dog Boy in tow, Justin struggles to fit into his new role and above all, to survive in a world where tragedy is around every corner. He's got to be prepared, just in case.


The view is fine up here. I can look out across the world and see everything. For instance, I can see a fifteen-year-old boy and his brother.


David Case’s baby brother had recently learned to walk but he wasn’t what you’d call an expert. He toddled past his brother to the large open window of the older boy’s room. There, with a great deal of effort, he pulled himself onto the windowsill, scrunched up like a caterpillar, pushed into a crouch, and stood, teetering precariously, his gaze fixed solemnly on the church tower a quarter mile away.

He tipped forward slightly towards the void just as a large black bird swooped past. It paused and turned an intelligent red eye to meet the child’s.

“Why not fly?” suggested the bird, and the boy’s eyes widened in delight.

Below them on the street, a greyhound stood motionless, his elegant pale head turned in the direction of the incipient catastrophe. Calmly the dog shifted the angle of his muzzle, creating an invisible guyline that eased the child back an inch or two towards equilibrium. Safer now, but seduced by the fact that a bird had spoken to him, the boy threw out his arms and thought, Yes! Fly!

David did not hear his brother think “fly.”

Something else made him look up. A voice. A finger on his shoulder. The brush of lips against his ear.

So that’s where we start: One boy on the verge of death. Another on the verge of something rather more complicated.

In the instant of looking up, David took the measure of the situation, shouted “Charlie!” and lunged across the room. He grabbed the child by the cape of his Batman pajamas, wrapped his arms around him with enough force to flatten his ribs, and sank to the floor, squashing the boy’s face into the safe hollow beneath his chin.

Charlie squeaked with outrage but David barely heard. Panting, he unpinned him, gripping the child at arm’s length.

“What were you doing?” He was shouting. “What on earth did you think you were doing?”

Well, said Charlie, I was bored just playing with my toys and you weren’t paying attention to me so I thought I would get a better look at the world. I climbed up on the window which wasn’t easy and once I managed to do that I felt strange and happy with nothing but sky all around me and all of a sudden a bird flew past and looked at me and said I could fly and a bird hasn’t ever talked to me before and I figured a bird would know what he was talking about when it came to flying so I thought he must be right. Oh and there was also a pretty gray dog on the pavement who looked up and pointed at me with his nose so I didn’t fall and just when I was about to leap out and soar through the air you grabbed me and hurt me a lot which made me very cross and I didn’t get a chance to fly even though I’m sure I could have.

The little boy explained all this slowly and carefully, so as not to be misunderstood.

“Burr-dee fly” were the words that came out of his mouth.

David turned away, heart pounding. It was useless trying to communicate with a one-year-old. Even if his brother had possessed the vocabulary, he couldn’t have answered David’s question. Charlie did what he did because he was a dumb kid, too dumb to realize that birds don’t talk and kids can’t fly.

My god, David thought. If I’d been two seconds slower he’d be dead. My brother would be dead but I’d be the one shattered, crushed, destroyed by guilt and blame and everyone everywhere for the rest of my life whispering He’s that kid who killed his brother.

Two seconds. Just two seconds were all that stood between normal everyday life and utter, total catastrophe.

David sat down hard, head spinning. Why had this never occurred to him? He could fall down a manhole, collapse of a stroke. A car crash could sever his spinal cord. He could catch bird flu. A tree could fall on him. There were comets. Killer bees. Foreign armies. Floods. Serial killers. There was buried nuclear waste. Ethnic cleansing. Alien invasion.

A plane crash.

Suddenly, everywhere he looked he saw catastrophe, bloodshed, the demise of the planet, the ruin of the human race, not to mention (to pinpoint the exact source of his anxiety) possible pain and suffering to himself.

Who could have thought up a scenario this bleak?

Whoever (whatever) it was, he could feel the dark malevolence of it settling in, making itself at home like some vicious bird of prey, its sharp claws sunk deep into the quivering gray jelly of his terrified brain. He pulled his brother close, tucking him in against his body, pressed his lips to the child’s face.

What if . . . ?

He became enmired in what if.

The weight of it wrapped itself around his ankles and dragged him under.


A year earlier, David’s father had woken him with a shout.

“David, your mother’s home! Aren’t you interested in seeing the baby?”

Not really, David thought, burying his head in his pillow. I know what a baby looks like.

But then they were in his room, grinning and making inane noises in the direction of a small, serene-looking creature with jet black eyes.

David sat up with a groan and peered at his new brother. OK, seen him, he thought.

“Of course he can’t see you yet.” His father, superior as ever. “Babies can’t focus properly for weeks.”

David was about to go back to sleep when he noticed the new baby gazing at him with a peculiar expression of calm authority.

I’m Charlie, said the new baby’s eyes, as clearly as if he had spoken the words out loud. Who are you?

David stared.

His brother repeated the question slowly, politely, as if to a person of limited intelligence. Who, exactly, are you?

David frowned.

The baby inclined his head, his face registering something that might have been pity. Such a simple question, he thought.

But if his brother knew the answer, he gave no sign.

This disturbed Charlie. Over the next few months, he tried approaching his parents for answers, but his father was always at work and his mother seemed strangely ill informed on the subject of her older son.

“He’s usually on time,” she would comment brightly, or “I wish he’d tidy his room more.” But nothing about who he was. And when she caught Charlie staring intently at David, she merely thought, How sweet. They’re bonding.

But they weren’t bonding. Charlie was comparing the David he knew with the Davids he saw displayed around the house in family pictures. The younger Davids looked cheerful and carefree; they held books or bikes or ice creams and gazed at the camera with expressions of trust. The younger Davids kicked balls, swung from trees, blew out the candles on birthday cakes. They had clear edges and cloudless eyes.

But the David that Charlie knew now was wavery and fizzy with nerves. The new David reminded Charlie of a birthday card he’d seen where the picture of a clown shifted gradually into the picture of a tightrope walker, depending on how you tilted it. Exactly when this transformation had begun, the child couldn’t say. According to the photos, his brother’s outline had begun to blur sometime between playing football at thirteen and losing his status as only child the following year.

Charlie had spent a good deal of his short life worrying about his older brother. Now he paused in the middle of playing Monkey Rides in a Car with Donkey to gather his thoughts. He saw that his recent attempt to fly had been a mistake. It seemed to have nudged his brother past some invisible tipping point and this filled him with remorse. Charlie wanted to make amends, to offer advice on how David could regain his footing. But he couldn’t get his brother to listen.

Or perhaps he was listening, but somehow lacked the capacity to understand. This worried Charlie most of all.
Meg Rosoff

About Meg Rosoff

Meg Rosoff - Just In Case

Photo © Zoe Norfolk

"Children are endowed with rare and subtle talents. . . . [and] our faults are sometimes far more useful in life than our so-called ‘good’ qualities."--Meg Rosoff

Meg Rosoff was born in Boston and lives in London. She is the author of How I Live Now and Just In Case


My biography will prove incredibly inspiring to anyone who wasn’t born in Beijing or Kathmandu, wasn’t sent to school in Switzerland or Peru, didn’t marry a diplomat at 19, and doesn’t speak 9 languages.

I was born in Boston, in 1956, second of four sisters, grew up in the Boston suburbs, went to ordinary suburban schools for most of my youth, and was rejected from Princeton in 1974 so went to Harvard instead.

I didn’t like Harvard much, but Princeton would have been worse, though I didn’t know that then.

After three years of thinking ‘I’ve got to get out of here’, I applied to art school in London, was accepted for a year studying sculpture, packed a bag and got on a plane. I stayed in a bed and breakfast in Knightsbridge until I found a room in a flat in Camden Town, with an architect who later became my boyfriend. Art school was a disaster (I was obviously a writer not a sculptor, but I didn’t know that then, either) but the rest of the year was a revelation. There was an unbelievable amount of fun to be had in London in 1977-78. I’m still reeling.

Eventually I returned to the US to finish my degree, moved to New York City, spent ten short years working in publishing and advertising, and then one day quit my job, told all my friends I was going back to London for three months, and have been here ever since.

My husband is an English painter and my daughter is a mongrel with her heart in the American suburbs and the accent of a North London fishmonger. After a fifteen-year stint in advertising (which I recommend to no one) my youngest sister died of breast cancer. And I thought if I was going to write a book, I’d better do it soon because life is short.

So I did.


Dear Readers:

There’s a biography of me somewhere that says my ideal job would be head gardener of Regents Park in London. This is not entirely true.

My true ideal job would be Archbishop of Canterbury, despite the fact that I’m Jewish, an atheist, female, and American. My reasoning goes that, given a certain amount of power (and in the case of the church, a lot of land and a dwindling congregation) you could re-brand the institution and influence an awful lot of people for the better. (As Tom Lehrer once memorably said, “there are people who do not love their fellow man, and I hate people like that.”)

My husband thinks I’d make a lousy Archbishop of Canterbury, given my absence of patience, tact and basic spirituality, and he’s probably right. So I considered the next best way to obtain a captive audience, and wrote a book.

At the very beginning, I had the idea for an American heroine and an English family of eccentrics (there were originally six children, but the family became unmanageable), and thought about what would happen if their meeting took place at the start of a war set in the very near future. I printed out the lyrics to Talking Heads’ "Life During Wartime" from the computer and it helped me imagine the world I wanted to create. After one false start, I could barely keep up with the narrative in my head, and had a first draught ready in about three months — and this while I was working full time! I would come home from work and put my daughter to bed, fall asleep with her at 8, wake up around 10 and work till midnight or 1 am. I didn’t realize it at the time, but have since heard people talk about the once in a lifetime experience of writing a book that feels like taking dictation. Since How I Live Now, I’ve moved on to two other books and have found it much more of a long haul.

I wrote How I Live Now after my youngest sister died of cancer, and it’s a terrible sadness to me that she’s not around to read it. The book is about loss, and the urgent need for love. It’s about the fact that violence leads to more violence, and war to more war. That we’re responsible for the people we care about. That deep human connections can repair a lot of emotional damage. That children are endowed with rare and subtle talents. That our faults are sometimes far more useful in life than our so-called ‘good’ qualities.

And that, as my sister said once, just because life is hard, doesn’t mean it can’t be good.

Did I miss anything?

Oh yeah: Advertising. I worked in advertising for fifteen years and walked out the door the day my book advance came through. Now that was a great day.

That’s about it, except I hope you like the book. It would help me a lot if you did. Although I learned numerous invaluable lessons from fifteen years writing ads, writing books sure beats writing about soap powder.



“Rosoff’s narrative poise makes this a book for all ages. . . . A daring, wise and sensitive look at the complexities of being young in a world teetering on chaos, Rosoff’s poignant exploration of perseverance in the face of the unknown is a timely lesson for us all.”--People

  • Just In Case by Meg Rosoff
  • March 25, 2009
  • Juvenile Fiction
  • Wendy Lamb Books
  • $9.99
  • 9780307533524

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