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Contemporary Realistic Fiction, Middle Grade Readers, Teacher & Parent Recommendations

LOST IN THE SUN by Lisa Graff

lost in the sunLisa Graff’s newest novel, Lost in the Sun, refers to the phenomenon often referenced in baseball when an outfielder attempting to catch the ball loses track of where the ball is due to the angle or brightness of the sun. “Lost in the sun” perfectly describes how Trent feels about the course of his life. He is in sixth grade.  He has an older brother and a younger brother.  His parents have divorced, his dad is remarried and having a new baby with his new wife.  And–oh yeah–last year, Trent shot a hockey puck to another classmate during a neighborhood game and–due to a condition which no one had ANY way of predicting and for which NO ONE is really to blame–the kid on the other end of that pass died after being hit by the puck.

Trent feels horribly guilty about the accident.  He’s angry with his father.  Trent’s thoughts, feelings and actions throughout Lost in the Sun are achingly genuine.  A young teenage boy absolutely overwhelmed with sadness, guilt and anger–some of the most difficult emotions for any of us to navigate–Trent lashes out at everyone.

He is quick to physical anger with his classmates.  He is equally quick to use hurtful words with his peers and his family.  The hardest moments for anyone are those when our feelings are so strong and so painful that they outstrip our ability to find words to speak about them.  As a 6th grader Trent cannot figure out how to explain or express the torrent of emotion that is ripping through him every day.  It’s painful in a way that isolates him from those who care about him and want to help–but don’t understand how to do so.

Trent wants to feel loved, to believe his parents are proud of him but so much feels hopeless to him.  His attempts are courageous, regardless of their flaws.  You hurt for him as he stumbles through some of his most painful times because we all see elements of our own feelings in his.

It shouldn’t have felt so terrible, knowing that my father didn’t want me, especially since I didn’t want him either.

But it did.  It did feel terrible….

I wanted to say that he was the one who should go easy on me.  I wanted to say that if he loved me so much, then why did he have to be such a jerk all the time.

But I looked at Mom’s face, and she was so hopeful.  She was trying so hard to raise a good kid, not a screw-up.  So instead I just said, “I’ll try.”

When Trent says or does something that–when seen only outwardly at face value–seems malicious and unfeeling he regrets it almost immediately.  But by then it feels to late to do anything about it–to change it.  So he gives up.  He continues his behavior and he continues to hurt.  A companion book to her much earlier Umbrella Summer, in Lost in the Sun Lisa Graff has expertly given voice to a child struggling to find his.  And it is worth hearing.

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