Trent thinks about what ifs a lot these days. What if he hadn’t gone out that day to play hockey on the lake. What if he hadn’t hit the puck in the exact wrong direction at the exact wrong time. What if Jared hadn’t had a heart defect. But all of the what ifs in the world won’t change the fact that if Trent had done just one little thing differently, Jared Richards would still be alive.
The adults—his mother, his therapist, his teachers—keep saying that it’s not his fault. They say that it was an accident, that it could have happened to anyone. But that doesn’t make his classmates whisper about him any less. It doesn’t make Jared’s little sister, Annie, stop hating him. And it doesn’t fix the well of rage that boils up out of Trent like lava anytime something goes wrong.
It’s that red-hot anger that’s getting him in trouble these days. Trent’s father and stepmother don’t want him anywhere near his new baby sister. His teachers hate him because of his foul attitude and defiance. It’s even pushing away Fallon, the only friend he has left. Starting middle school is hard enough for anyone. Starting middle school with the memory of the kid he killed hanging over him is impossible.
Lisa Graff delivers a powerful story that is simultaneously a punch to the gut and a heartwarming story of hope and redemption. Trent is such an endearing and self-aware character that readers can’t help but root for him, even as he makes self-destructive decisions that later come back to haunt him. Kids who have difficulty staying out of trouble will find a kindred spirit in Trent, and familiarity in his struggles to do the right thing.
From the very beginning, Graff draws you into Trent’s story, and his interior monologue. In the first chapter, he muses, “No, I knew I could never disappear that moment, because just like with the claw machine, there were so many events pushed up around it that there’d be no way to get it to budge. Everything that had happened before, and everything that happened after, those moments were all linked. Smushed together.” It’s obvious from the start that he has a hard road ahead of him, and readers will be pulling for him all the way.
There are some legitimately funny and lighthearted moments in the book, but it is overall a serious book about serious topics. Issues of death and guilt are handled in an age-appropriate ways for older elementary and younger middle school students. The one sour note is in the portrayal of Trent’s father; he is a self-centered, irritable and impatient parent, and at times he veers toward the cartoonish. That makes it easy to take Trent’s side in their many confrontations, but a more nuanced portrayal could have added depth to their interactions.
Lost in the Sun is a page-turner; even reluctant readers will quickly be pulled into the story. Highly recommended.
Lost in the Sun by Lisa Graff; Philomel; c2015