picture me gone

Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff

Mila is spending her Easter break traveling from London to the United States with her father.  They plan to visit one of his oldest friends, Matthew, and his family.  But days before they are to set off, they hear that Matthew has gone missing and his wife has no idea where he might be but urges them to come anyway.  Mila has long known that she has exceptional perception skills: she can tell when someone is pregnant before they even know, can read emotions quickly and can easily gather clues from a room.  So when they arrive, she quickly realizes several things about Matthew and his family.  As she gets closer to solving the mystery, it all gets more complicated and soon Mila has to even question whether her father is being honest with her. 

Rosoff writes so beautifully.  She takes time here in the book to create a family dynamic in Mila’s father and mother that is strong and buoyant.  She also carefully builds the background of Mila’s life, so that readers will understand what a different situation Mila finds herself in.  A theme of translation runs through the entire novel.  Mila’s father is a translator of books, Mila has to translate to American English, Mila can understand the language of objects and read nuances into them, and there is also the language of pain and loss that permeates the book.  It is a theme that unites this book from one of a road trip into a quest.

Mila is a very intriguing character.  She is both wildly perceptive and then also unaware at times.  All of the characters in the book are fully developed and well drawn.  Her parents are real people with their own pasts and foibles.  I particularly enjoyed the almost brittle portrayal of Matthew’s abandoned wife who seems very one dimensional at first, but then at the end shows more of herself in a subtle way.

A virtuoso book that is rather quiet, very thoughtful and filled with insights just like Mila herself.  Appropriate for ages 13-15.

Reviewed from library copy.