CM . . .
. Volume XIX Number 32. . . .April 19, 2013
Rafe Reynolds has a great life, complete with "Big house, cars, money. Great parents." Prompted both by a need to improve his resume, and the idea that he should be giving back to others, Rafe decides take a job as a counsellor at a wilderness camp where he is going to spend "a week with a bunch of mouthy young offenders in the woods". Nervous about dealing with a cabin full of unruly teens, he decides to take a tough approach with all of his campers, even young Matt Phillips, the designated "doormat" in the group. Matt has been bullied all of his life, and, over time, he has come to a sad acceptance of his situation.
Unbeknownst to anyone at the camp, Matt has agreed to come for only one reason...to run away from his too difficult life and get himself permanently lost..."Like disappearing into the earth". He waits until night time to sneak quietly out of the cabin, but Rafe sees him and follows. The two head out into the wilderness, Rafe rushing to catch up and bring Matt back before anyone else gets involved. A sudden fall leaves Rafe in a desperate situation, but Matt helps him to safety and stays with him just long enough to be sure he is going to live before once again taking off on his lonely quest. Unable to follow him right away, Rafe is left battling the elements, hurt and alone. Luckily, he is trained in survival skills, and the need to focus on simply staying alive is enough to enable him to push through the pain and the fear so that he can take up the chase once more. He sets off through the dark woods and finds Matt, who is now also injured. Rafe begins to realize that Matt no longer wants to disappear and that the two of them will have to band together in order to survive.
Lost is a fast-paced novel that will grab and keep the attention of readers. The recreational reader will find Rafe's extensive knowledge of survival skills interesting, and teachers will find lots of educational material blended into his desperate efforts to stay alive. Rafe is realistically self-absorbed in spite of his desire to help, and his evolution towards compassion for Matt is well paced.
Matt's heartbreaking acceptance of his status as a "doormat" and his wish to permanently escape his challenging life should make readers think about the issue of bullying and the effects it can have on its victims. Matt is an interesting young man, and more time spent observing the story through his eyes as he struggles both physically and emotionally might have added even more to reader empathy and further enhanced the impact of the novel's conclusion.
The novel is easy to read, but Jennings keeps the vocabulary and overall reading experience on a high enough level to still provide an educational challenge for struggling readers. Occasionally the dialogue veers away from being realistically "teen" sounding, but, overall, Lost works as both a fun read and an educational tool.
The educational value is further increased by the addition of Lori Jamison's study guide, a user-friendly, extremely well-constructed guide to literary instruction specific to this novel, that will appeal to teachers of all experience levels. With excellent introductory guidelines for teachers and fun, accessible activities for students created on reproducible worksheets, this is a complete educational resource that could be used with equal effectiveness in both small group and whole class instructional formats.
Liane Shaw is a retired educational consultant and elementary teacher, now working as a freelance writer near Renfrew, ON.
on this title or this review, send mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.