July 14, 2013

Review: A Trick of the Light

I am always looking for realistic YA for my male students and this is one I am excited to add to my classroom library.

If I could pick one word to describe this book, I would pick powerful.

Title: ‘A Trick of the Light’
Author: Lois Metzger
Pages: 189
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Available: NOW at your local library/book store
Source: from FSB Associates

Summary (from Goodreads):

Mike Welles had everything under control. But that was before. Now things are rough at home, and they’re getting confusing at school. He’s losing his sense of direction, and he feels like he’s a mess.

Then there’s a voice in his head. A friend, who’s trying to help him get control again. More than that—the voice can guide him to become faster and stronger than he was before, to rid his life of everything that’s holding him back. To figure out who he is again. If only Mike will listen.

Telling a story of a rarely recognized segment of eating disorder sufferers—young men—A Trick of the Light by Lois Metzger is a book for fans of the complex characters and emotional truths in Laurie Halse Anderson’s Wintergirls and Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why.

My Thoughts:

And it all begins with a mirror—one that is distorted but speaks “truth” to Mike.

Metzger hits a serious note in this tale of a teen guy just trying to make it in the world. There is only one problem, the voice in his head. The voice that he initially ignores, but as it slowly erodes into his consciousness, so does Mike’s health. Very clever tactic indeed.

The book is broken into three parts: The Mirror, You and Me Both, Stop-Motion. I found this to be an effective way to move readers through Mike’s story. Instead of bogging readers down into details, the author gives us snapshots into what is happening to Mike, how gradual it is…and yet it isn’t at the same time.

This reminded me of Plath’s ‘The Bell Jar’ because she descends readers into madness before they even realize they are there. This is how I felt while reading Mike’s story. I was so caught up in his rationalizations that I almost forgot that something terrible was happening to him, and yet at the same time I was quite aware.

I don’t want to reveal the narrator of the novel because I feel that will spoil the author’s storytelling, but it was clever and I enjoyed it.

The chapters mix prose with dialogue, and I really enjoyed this switch throughout. I felt it helped pace the plot in a way that keeps them engaged, especially teen readers reading such a serious topic.

For Mike’s character, all I could think was how wonderful it was that he had a mom that loved and cared about him so much while at the same time allowing him to make life choices for himself—until those choices could end his life. While I’m not always a fan of parents in YA for a variety of reasons, I loved the role his mom played. And then there was dad who seemed to disappear from Mike’s life suddenly, which is one of the reasons the voice took over, but came back to help his son.

While I found Mike to be irrational a lot, I also found this to be a part of the truth within the fiction. Aren’t we all irrational about something(s)?

Usually in YA storytelling there are a lot of minor characters that play a major role, but in this novel that job is left to one: Amber. Her job in the story is not to enhance Mike but to help justify him and his choices. She is there to give the audience knowledge, especially when it comes to eating disorder lingo.

And while Mike’s mom and dad are there, I feel Amber’s influence is the most strong on Mike. She is his peer. She is his partner in eating disorder.

It was clear to me that the author had done her research, and not just because I read her author’s note where she discussed the type of research she conducted. I could feel the honestly of her storytelling, of that research breathing life on the page of her novel.

There were elements that were hard for me to read, but that is the point. Realistic storytelling should make readers feel a bit uncomfortable when dealing with hard-hitting issues.

This is a tough topic to handle, especially in males, but the author does so with tenderness and care. She is real. She is raw. She is the deliverer of truth within this novel. Eating disorders aren’t just for females.

I agree that this novel will appeal to readers of ‘Winter Girls’ and ‘Thirteen Reasons Why,’ but I also think it will appeal to readers of Chris Crutcher.  

I look forward to adding this to my classroom library and hearing feedback from my students.

What is the most raw and honest realistic novel you’ve read? I would love a list of novels to include in my classroom library.

Comment below and let’s talk about books.

Happy Reading!

-      The Hodgenator

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