I’ve been a Michele Jaffe fan since Bad Kitty*. While it’s true that I’ve spent, and continue to spend, an inordinate amount of time waiting/hoping/wishing for Bad Kitty No. 3, I don’t hold that against her. To the contrary: If her name is on a book, I will, at the very least, pick it up. And that’s the fascinating tale of How I Found Rosebush.
The morning after a huge party, Jane Freeman wakes up in a (wait for it...) rosebush. She can’t move—not only because of the thorns, but because her entire body is paralyzed—and she doesn’t know how she got there or even what happened the night before. Once she’s been safely** moved to the hospital, she’s informed that she is the victim of an accidental hit-and-run.
Problem No. 1: The more she remembers about the night, the less she thinks it was an accident.
Problem No. 2: Nobody believes her.
And, really, why would they? As far as the adults in her life (and most of her peers) know, she’s a privileged, popular girl with two fabulous best friends, a devoted boyfriend and a promising career in photography. And on the surface, they’re right. What worries could she possibly have? Well, for one, there’s the Sad Truth About Popularity***:
Popularity isn’t a double-edged sword; it has only one edge—kill or be killed. There’s a finite amount of space at the top of the social pyramid and once you’ve reached it, there’s only one direction to go and no shortage of people who want to push you there.
In most books, you could safely assume that that passage was hyperbolic. Not so in this one. As the book progresses, Jane begins to remember That Fateful Night as well as reflect on the weeks leading up to it. In doing so, she realizes that there are far too many moments and interactions that feel ominous and strangely jarring. Some of the Alarm Bells are more subtle than others, and readers will be theorizing right up until the very end. This quote:
They’re going to keep thinking about it. Perception can make reality. Change one and you change the other. That’s art.
had me completely convinced that someone had manipulated a Truman Show-style situation, which is (I can’t believe I’m admitting this) one of the least outlandish hypotheses I formed.
It isn’t perfect—the psychology feels heavy-handed and too pat (the reason behind Jane’s artistic focus, especially), and some of the secondary characters are thin (Jane’s boyfriend, her photographer friend)—but it’s a totally engaging romantic thriller. Like Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window and Shia LeBeouf in Disturbia****, Jane’s physical condition is the cause of her sleuthing, but unlike them, her investigation is borne out of desperation and fear, rather than boredom.
I’ll be recommending it to fans of Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall and Barnabas Miller and Jordan Orlando’s 7 Souls. Rosebush differs in that it doesn’t have a fantasy element, but it’s similar in that it’s about ferreting out the dangerous secrets and lies of a life-altering night.
*Which is a fashion-heavy, chick-lit-style murder mystery that features not only hilarious footnotes, but hilarious squabbles between the main characters within the footnotes. Not to be missed.
**Or is she?
***Something that I, being a life-long nerd, obviously have to take on faith.
If she isn't writing Bookshelves of Doom or doing her librarian thing, Leila Roy is probably engaged in yet-another pitched battle with her new cat.