My thanks to the author Rāwiri James and BookTasters for a review copy of this book.
Lost Boy is a young adult mystery/thriller novel that also delves into issues affecting teens and their daily lives, and also aspects of race and culture. At the centre of our story is Michael DeVelli Jr or Mike who lives with his parents Mike DeVelli Sr who runs a shoe store and Anna, a housewife, in Brooklyn. He is just about to start sophomore year in Lafayette High School with best friend Joey (who is a little too obsessed with girls), and girlfriend of two years, Nicole, an intelligent young woman with her head firmly on her shoulders. Alongside, Mike is dealing with issues of weight and diet, subsisting on only protein shakes and intense workouts and shunning everything else, a result in part of his mother’s obesity.
But things change for the DeVellis drastically on the first day of school as Mike returns home with his mother’s birthday cake to find that she has died (because of her weight). Both he and his father struggle to cope and while Mike Sr takes to the bottle, Mike tries to run away from it all and ends up cheating on Nicole with another girl at school, Priya. Sometime later, he makes a date to see Priya at a park but when she fails to appear, he feels betrayed and returns home, only to discover the next day that Priya has gone missing. Before long, Mike is the main suspect. As the police pursue their investigations, Joey and Nicole want to help and with a sympathetic teacher, Mr Nguyen, begin to look into the matter. Alongside, a mysterious character, Artie Gray, is going around targeting young women.
Another thread of the story relates to Mike having some unusual dreams about two little boys out near a lake. One day, after his mother’s death, he finds among her things a Polish newspaper with the picture of a little boy who looks very much like himself. His father gives an explanation that fails to convince him, so he becomes curious about his own past. Both threads of the story move side by side and weave in together towards the end.
Lost Boy was somewhat of a mixed read for me, with some aspects that I enjoyed but also some things which didn’t work as well for me. By and large I enjoyed the mystery–thriller plot in the book; Mike feeling lost after his mother’s death which leads to his involvement with Priya, and then the twist with Priya vanishing from just where was to meet him. This was both exciting and somewhat scary because one wonders who it could have been that kidnapped her and whether she is even alive. Mike seems to have been the last person to speak to her and foolishly (though not unbelievably) keeps this from the police, making things look all the worse for him. But while aside from the police investigation, things don’t proceed quite like the typical mystery/thriller, Joey and Nicole do begin to look into what could possibly have happened to Priya and make progress. On the other side, we are also wondering what the mysterious character, Artie Gray is up to, and whether it is him who is responsible for taking Priya.
Besides the mystery around Priya’s disappearance, we also have the mystery or secret from Mike’s past which keeps one wondering what the story could be, and the explanation was certainly not one I saw coming, as indeed was the case with the mystery around Priya’s disappearance. In fact, the resolution of that tied into the other thread of the story so unexpectedly that I was quite taken by surprise.
The characters too, were fairly well done; one feels for Mike and the issues he is dealing with despite the mistakes that he makes. I liked how Joey and Nicole stood by him as well. Mr Nguyen helps them despite having to deal with troubles and accusations against himself. Additionally, I also thought the background of school and its pressures, the issues of weight, health and appearance, drugs, relationships, grief and coping were indeed all relevant to what people/teens have to deal with every day.
What I was not so sure of in the plot was the tying of the two threads together—while the way it was done was unexpected and I enjoyed the surprise, since the two belonged to very different realms—the worldly and something of the supernatural—I wasn’t quite satisfied with the fact that we have insufficient explanation of the supernatural/fantasy aspects, unless this is something that will be explored in further books.
Another issue for me was the explicit language and content which was not to my liking; also if this is a young adult, perhaps a bit much for the intended audience.
Also, the names of the Indian-origin characters threw up a minor issue—the girl who disappears is called Priyanka Nashad—her surname is not a typically Hindu name while her first name is; again her siblings are called Navjyot and Jasminder which are more typically Sikh names; so it felt a bit odd, but again, this might be just me who was bothered by it.
Overall, this was a book in which the mystery elements both of this world, and the fantasy ones kept me reading despite the aspects that bothered me. 3 stars.