After David’s mother dies, the 12-year-old feels alone and angry. His mourning is compounded by his father’s remarriage and the addition of a baby boy. David cannot accept that there is a new woman in his mother’s place and doesn’t feel a connection to his half-brother. He retreats more into the world of his books, a pastime he shared with his mother. As time passes, he begins hearing his books whispering to him, he has strange “fits” and then he sees a “Crooked Man” in his home.
On one scary day, he ends up in another world entirely, one that is populated with all sorts of characters much like those in stories he’s read. He immediately must try to stay alive against all kinds of chilling fairy-tale threats even as he tries to find a way back home. He hears that the king of the land has a magical book that may be the key, but the path to the castle is long and treacherous.
When he hears the voice of his mother calling to him, David hopes that his life can somehow return to the way it was before her supposed death. He just wants his stepmother and little brother to go away. But is it possible to recapture a life that is lost? His long journey through the land where the nightmares of stories come to life teaches him some lessons about the complexities of a life fully lived.
The Book of Lost Things takes readers on a journey as well, through the darkest parts of the un-Disney-fied classic fairy tales. We can’t help but feel for David’s loss and his pain, even while knowing ourselves that there are some things that can’t be magically fixed. This story really is about growing up, about making sacrifices and facing all the highs and lows that life brings. It’s bittersweet and richly woven and I found myself closing the back cover with a satisfied sigh.
Rated: Moderate, mostly for gory violence. The hero of the story faces many fairy-tale beasts and monsters and there are some gory deaths involved. Toward the end, details about the horrid exploits of the Crooked Man aren’t too in-depth, but they are enough to hint at depravity and the worst of human nature. There are some hints at sexual topics but veiled so a child would not really understand but adults do – that’s much of what this story is about: a young man coming out of childhood being exposed to some of the harsher realities of adulthood.