I first saw the cover for Picture Me Gone quite a while before it was published and I thought it was going to be a silly, whimsical story. (I think it reminded me of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy!). But the categories on Goodreads are pretty accurate: young adult, mystery, contemporary, family, road trip and coming-of-age.
Mila is a twelve-year-old whose maturity means that you cannot tell her age just by listening to her. She’s both intuitive and rational at the same time. She can tell whether you’re in a healthy relationship just by looking around your home or that you’re unhappy just by paying attention to your body language, even if you say otherwise. Mila cannot explain why little clues and signs jump out at her – they just do. Her gift means that she is brilliant at solving mysteries and puzzles, so when her father’s old friend, Matthew, goes missing – taking off, leaving his wife, baby son and a dog who adores him – Mila think she’s up to the challenge.
Mila leaves England with her father, Gil, and heads off to New York to begin a road trip across North America, on a diet of Wagon Wheels and American diners. Matthew has clearly got himself into a bit of a pickle. What made him leave, where is he and why has he not come back? But you start Picture Me Gone thinking that the story is about Matthew’s disappearance only to see that it’s about looking through Mila’s eyes as she discovers the difficulties of translating people, just as her father translates books. Mila starts to realise that adults do not always have the right answers and that answers depend on whether you ask the right questions.
If you’ve read How I Live Now, you’ll be familiar with Meg Rosoff’s writing style. Picture Me Gone is similarly written: simplistic and without speech marks. It’s a little unusual but you fall into it incredibly easily and quickly. Mila is acts much older than her age and her thoughts are much more mature, drawing you into her smart observations and feelings about why people act the way they do. And sometimes she comes up blank because adults just do not make sense. Mila reminds us what it’s like to think like a child, wondering why things have to be as complex as they are. And can you remember how impossible it was to imagine yourself as an adult? Mila is a sparkling character with a captivating narration who’s wonderful to spend time with. We get to appreciate little moments, like when she tries to purchase an epic Easter egg for her best friend Caitlin back home or when she’s sitting on a motel bed with her father, trying to work everything out. Or her thoughts as she’s travelling through a wintry landscape so different to home. (Picture Me Gone also led me on a journey to find Jammie Wagon Wheels, but I’ve only tracked down the mini ones!).
Picture Me Gone is a unique, memorable novel exploring how people observe, interpret, signal and theorise each other. It shows us what growing up is really about: understanding yourself and others, but accepting that you may not always get the answers you’re looking for.
Published: 5th September 2013 (UK) 3rd October 2013 (US)
Publisher: Penguin Books (UK) Putnam Juvenile (US)
Source: Thank you Penguin Books for providing this book to review!