Lisa Graff’s Absolutely Almost was such a treasure of a book, that I just knew I would love her latest: Lost In The Sun. I did. Here’s the summary from the jacket cover:
Everyone says that middle school is awful, but Trent knows nothing could be worse than the year he had in fifth grade, when a freak accident on Cedar Lake left one kid dead, and Trent with a brain full of terrible thoughts he can’t get rid of. Trent’s pretty positive the entire disaster was his fault, so for him middle school feels like a fresh start, a chance to prove to everyone that he’s not the horrible screw-up they seem to think he is.
If only Trent could make that fresh start happen.
It isn’t until Trent gets caught up in the whirlwind that is Fallon Little—the girl with the mysterious scar across her face—that things begin to change. Because fresh starts aren’t always easy. Even in baseball, when a fly ball gets lost in the sun, you have to remember to shift your position to find it.
Trent’s search for solace and redemption is beautifully crafted – there are no easy answers, and Graff does a magnificent job of writing about the complexities of life, death, divorce and trust with an entirely believable middle school aged voice. His unlikely friendship with Fallon, and the way in which he copes with school bullies, adds another layer to this story. I loved that the origin of Fallon’s scar remains a mystery, after all, not everything needs to be spelled out in order to be understood. I also loved how Graff described the often messy way in which adults handle divorce; I see this play out in my classroom with students all the time, and I know many of them will appreciate the way she describes the ineptitude of some parents as they juggle divorce, remarriage, second families. Best of all, there is one parent (Trent’s mom) who manages to behave like an adult, with compassion and patience for her son’s muddled feelings of anger and abandonment. Kids need to read about adults like this, it gives them hope. I can’t wait to share this with my sixth graders – a wonderful selection for a readaloud or book clubs.
Ryan Gebhart’s book was great fun to read. Here’s the Goodreads summary:
Thirteen-year-old Tyson loves hanging out with his roughneck Grandpa Gene, who’s a lot more fun than Tyson’s ex–best friend, Brighton. These days, Bright just wants to be seen with the cool jocks who make fun of Tyson’s Taylor Swift obsession and dorky ways. So when Grandpa Gene has to move to a nursing home that can manage his kidney disease, Tyson feels like he’s losing his only friend. Not only that, but Tyson was counting on Grandpa Gene to take him on his first big hunt. So in defiance of Mom and Dad’s strict orders, and despite reports of a scary, stalking, man-eating grizzly named Sandy, the two sneak off to the Grand Tetons.
Yes, there will be action, like shooting and dressing a six-hundred-pound elk. Is Tyson tough enough? There will be heart-pounding suspense: is Grandpa Gene too sick to handle the hunt, miles away from help? And, oh yes, there will be bears….
Tyson is funny in the kooky way middle school kids are, and reading this story made me miss my sixth graders (no kidding!). Although he is dealing with a serious issue, Grandpa Gene is getting old and in failing health, Gebhart manages to weave in moments of both hilarity and insight. The last part of the book, the part of high (bear related) drama, will have my kids laughing out loud as I very nearly did. A fun read, as my kids would say.