Michele Jaffe – Rosebush

Jane doesn’t remember being hit by a car and left for dead. But, stuck in the hospital, she realizes that her friends’ stories and her memories of what happened that night aren’t adding up.

And now, the only thing she does know is that one of her friends isn’t so friendly.

One of them was trying to kill her.

One of them still is.

Rosebush is a lovely book written from a great premise; it’s a murder mystery in which its intended victim is the investigator. But it’s hard investigating something if you can’t even recall what happened. Still, Jane knows she has to try and try she does. I loved the set-up of this book moving in a circle as it does. It starts off with a prologue, a scene that we’ll later return to in the book and then move beyond to the eventual conclusion. In between these scenes, Jane tries to regain her memories and to puzzle out what happens to her, and along the way we not only get flashbacks of the night of the accident, but also of Jane’s earlier life. These give an insight to how she got where she was the night of the accident and create several layers to the narrative.

Jane is a great protagonist, though at times I wanted to shake her! Her need for validation, her need to belong and her people-pleaser ways are probably recognisable to anyone who remembers their teenage years to a greater or lesser degree (spoiler: in my case greater), which at once creates a point of connection, but for a more adult reader also of frustration, as – hopefully – an adult will have moved past that painful stage of needing to be liked or otherwise you’ll just die. We know, or are at least supposed to know, that it isn’t important what THEY think, it’s important what you want and what makes you happy. And this is exactly one of the main themes running through the book, Jane’s realisation that she has to think for herself and follow her own dreams, instead of trying to please everyone around her. The main catalyst for this is her relationship with David. He’s a dreamboat, handsome, popular and a musician of the ‘tortured poet’-variety and Jane still can’t believe he’s hers. This blinds her to the fact that David is incredibly controlling and definitely not a good guy and she acquiesces to his every wish. Their interactions made me wince every time and I just wanted Jane to wake up and smell the coffee and realise that this was not okay!

The story also dealt with the fact that often the worst scars are those that are hidden, especially the ones we hide from ourselves. This is one of the deeper layers of the narrative, dealing not so much with the accident, as with Jane’s coping with the loss of her father, moving to Jersey, and losing her best friend in Illinois, Bonnie. I loved this aspect of the novel, the way that all that had gone before influenced current events and negated Jane’s rather naive idea articulated early in the book to Bonnie: that when they move to a new school for freshman year, they can start over and be who they want to be. I think everyone thinks that at some point, when they go to secondary school, to university or move to a new town. I know I certainly did when I moved out to go to university. But as most of us discover, the book shows that you can leave behind a situation and change your looks and behaviour, but you can’t leave yourself behind. Who you are and who you were, move with you and unless you are at peace with your past, you can’t move on from that.

There is enough of the unlikeable about Jane to keep the reader’s mind open to the fact that it might just all be in her head. Which causes her to seem an unreliable narrator for much of the book. Especially as she starts to doubt herself and seems ready to accept that some of the things that happen to her are just really bad pranks. And I have to say, being a teen is a cutthroat business in this book, at least it is if you want to be in the in-crowd. While I never really believed Jane was hallucinating everything, there were a couple of times I was doubting right along with her, especially as her nurse and her doctors kept assuring her it was all due to to her pain medication.

The surrounding cast is amazing. I Loved Pete, the hot, flirty orderly and Jane’s little sister Annie. I loved the latter’s ‘wise beyond her years’-outlook on life and the way she interpreted between Jane and her mum. But most of all, I loved the three Mustkateers, Jane, Langley and Kate. I loved their bond and their friendship, it’s the kind of friendship you look upon from the outside wishing you had a similar one. I so felt for Jane’s distress at the thought that this bond wasn’t real, that she’d lose one of the pillars she built her security on, the one she thought would keep her from being alone. But this was not the only relationship that teeters, as Jane examines her memory flashes and tries to puzzle out what happens, she starts to doubt every relationship she has, from her mum, to her friends, to her boyfriend, they are all suspect. And when it all comes crashing down, what is left standing is pretty amazing. The big reveal caught me completely off-guard as I totally hadn’t seen it coming.

Rosebush is a great book. I couldn’t put it down. Apart from the well-plotted story, the writing is lovely, with beautiful, cinematic descriptions and some very funny, snarky dialogues. If you like a good mystery and YA book, Rosebush is is definitely worth a read and one I’ll reread just to figure out how Ms Jaffe did it, what clues I missed the first time round.


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