Mila and her dad are preparing to visit her dad’s friend Matthew, when news comes that he has disappeared. Their trip from London to New York assumes new meaning as they set out to find the missing man. Named after her grandfather’s terrier, Mila has a sharpened --- almost doglike --- awareness of her surroundings. Her dad, a literary translator, nicknames her Perguntador (Portuguese for “questioner”). Not surprisingly, the inquisitive 12-year-old devotes her skills to tracking down Matthew. Mila first shows her instinctive flair for reading people when she meets Matthew’s wife and the baby he has left behind. Right away, Mila picks up on Suzanne’s dislike for her husband’s dog and draws insightful conclusions from things left unsaid. All isn’t right between the couple. The adults are certain that Matthew left of his own free will, but Mila can’t understand why.
"PICTURE ME GONE is equal parts mystery, road trip and coming-of-age novel, certain to hold crossover appeal for more mature readers."
PICTURE ME GONE is equal parts mystery, road trip and coming-of-age novel, certain to hold crossover appeal for more mature readers. What begins as a sleuthing adventure bringing Mila and her dad on a journey across upstate New York, takes on heightened urgency as details emerge about Matthew’s home life and personal demons. Infidelity, abandonment and a child’s death play a role in his disappearance. Even a perceptive girl like Mila struggles to make sense of it all.
In between finding clues and testing theories, Mila texts her best friend Catlin back in London. Cat has become increasingly distant as she faces her own family crisis. Mila is desperate to preserve their friendship, complete with codebooks and top-secret missions. The subplot renders Mila a more relatable character.
Meg Rosoff expertly builds tension through the slow pace of disclosure. The first-person, present-tense narration creates a sense of immediacy that is hard to resist. While readers may be a few steps ahead of Mila in solving the puzzle, they’ll remain invested in her emotional journey. Just as Mila comes to see the bigger picture, she begins to revise her opinions not only of Matthew and Suzanne, but of her trusted father. With Mila’s keen observation comes painful revelation. Rosoff captures the precarious feeling of a girl on the cusp of adolescence, just now realizing adults’ capacity to inflict hurt.
Reviewed by Emma Kantor on September 13, 2013