Reading Guide Questions
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
David Case is a fifteen-year-old boy on the verge of adulthoodand on the verge
of a nervous breakdown. After his younger brother nearly falls from an open
window, David becomes acutely aware of his own mortality and the haphazard
nature of fate.
Certain that fate has something truly horrible in store for him, David goes
about changing his identity in an attempt to trick fate, and avoid the suffering
and unhappiness that is his destiny. He changes his name to Justin, buys an
outlandish new wardrobe, and takes up a new hobby in his attempt to escape the
doom or fortune of David Case. What David doesn't realize, however, is that
Justin Case comes with his own set of predicaments and freak happenings.
Just in Case
is a coming-of-age novel for teenagers and adults alike, for
anyone concerned with the path of his or her life and its ramifications. It
forces us to think about the consequences of our actions, the connection between
seemingly random events, and the effects of friendship, love, and tragedy.
- Just in Case has been called a work of magical realismone in
which the fantastic (thoughts, feelings, dreams) and the pragmatic (action
and speech) are combined to create a more complete and authentic sense of
reality. Toddler Charlie "speaks" eloquently to his older brother; Peter and
Dorothea and Anne can "see" Boy, Justin's imaginary dog; and Fate is an
omniscient narrator and character of the novel. Discuss whether these
elements provide a more authentic sense of reality than a hardboiled
depiction of Justin's psychological crisis might have done.
- Fatalism is the belief that all events are predetermined by the events
that happened before them, and there is no possible alteration of the events
in one's life. This book not only deals with the subject of fate, but also
makes Fate a sentient being who narrates Justin's story and interacts with
Justin at various points in the plot. What do you believe Rosoff is saying
to us about the fatalist viewpoint?
- Charlie nearly falls out of an open window, and instead of reflecting on
almost losing Charlie, David worries about how his own life could have
changed if he hadn't caught his brother and stopped him from falling.
Discuss how David's narrow perception is age-appropriate, and how we see
these qualities alter and change as the novel progresses. How does Agnes
provide an element of irony to David/Justin's solipsism?
- When Justin meets Agnes she helps him find the right clothes for his new
identitybizarre combinations that he never would have attempted as David.
Agnes herself dresses outlandishly. How does the element of garments fit
into the thematic development of the story, and what do they symbolize?
- How many other "visual" elements (or episodes) in this novel reinforce
the subject of perception? What is Rosoff saying about the value of
perception through characters like Peter and Dorothea, who can "see" Boy,
and characters like Agnes or Justin's mother, who are reluctant to
acknowledge the dog's existence?
- What parallels exist between characters in the novel? How are Agnes and
Dorothea similar? What can we infer about age and/or gender by comparing
Ivan and Justin, Agnes and Dorothea, Justin and Agnes, or Peter and Justin?
- After the plane hits the Luton airport, the relationship between Agnes
and Justin shifts. Discuss their different ways of coping with the
disasterwhat does it reveal about their characters? Is Agnes, at this
point, a sympathetic character or an antagonist? What does her photography
and fashion exhibit suggest about her method of coping with hardship? What
is significant about its difference from Justin's way of coping with
- Agnes' photography and fashion exhibit serves as a turning point in the
plot in various ways, but how in particular does it show significant change
in Justin? What is unusual and important about the way he reacts when he
learns of Ivan's death outside the exhibit? What does it show us about
Justin's evolving sense of perspective about fate and its consequences?
- Compare and contrast the significance of the following: 1) Agnes, Peter,
and Justin's trip to the seashore and 2) Justin's nighttime
encounter/altercation with the vixen and Alice the rabbit. What important
information is revealed to us about the characters in each of these scenes?
What kind of metaphors and/or allegory do we find in these parts of the
- Evaluate the novel's ending. Is it satisfying? Appropriate? Realistic?
How does it act as both a resolution to the book and support for the book's
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Plume.
Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.