Saturday, August 20, 2011

This Month’s Book: Me, the Missing, and the Dead by Jenny Valentine

me the missingThis is a story about looking for clues to solve one mystery, only to find that the solution is inextricably linked to the central mystery of your life. The story starts with Lucas finding “a tenner” in his coat pocket after staying too late at his friend’s house and deciding to take a cab home. In the mini-cab office, he sees an urn up on a shelf and when he asks about it, is told that it was left in a cab 18 months ago. Lucas can’t stop thinking about the abandoned urn; in fact, he thinks the inhabitant is talking to him. He finds out her name is Violet Park, and he concocts a plan with his grandmother, Pansy, (who swears all the time, but without actually saying the word, “just mouths it with her face screwed up”) to liberate Violet from her purgatory. One of the things I really love about this book is how detailed and original the descriptions are. For instance, when Lucas is looking out over the heath, unable to sleep: That part of the heath is covered with enormous crows. They’ve got massive feet like they can’t believe how big they are. They all look like actors with their hands behind their backs, rehearsing the bit in that play when the king says, “Now is the winter of our discontent…” Lucas’s family is pretty messed up –his father disappeared five years ago, and they’ve never been able to move on. Lucas idolizes his father, which drives his mother insane, and his sister is just angry. Lucas has quite a funny voice, and the story is broken up by lists, such as this one about parents. “You start off thinking they own the world, and everything is downhill from there. Parents do so many things to wake you up to the idea that they are less than perfect.

  • Speak like they think teenagers speak (always wrong, excruciatingly wrong).
  • Get drunk too quickly or too much.
  • Be rude to people they don’t know.
  • Flirt with your teacher and your friends..
  • Forget their age.
  • Use their age against you.
  • Get piercings.
  • Wear leather trousers (both sexes).
  • Drive badly (without admitting it).
  • Cook badly (ditto).
  • Go to seed.
  • Sing in the shower/car/public.
  • Don’t say sorry when they’re wrong.
  • Shout at you or each other.
  • Hit you or each other.
  • Steal from you or each other.
  • Lie to you or each other.
  • Tell dirty jokes in front of your friends.
  • Give you grief in front of your friends.
  • Try to be your mate when it suits them.”

As I’ve already hinted, by the end of the book, Lucas has solved more than one mystery, and has come to some sort of peace with the world, and his mother especially.  Review by Stacy Chur