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WHAT WE LOST (formerly ONCE WAS LOST)

Author: Sara Zarr

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Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2009

Material: hard cover

Summary: Sam’s world is crumbling around her. Each day is just another opportunity for more misfortune. Her Mom is in rehab after an accident; and the relationship with her dad - the town's beloved pastor - is strained. Sam is desperately grasping the remnants of her faith, but truthfully, she is tired of trying to make a sincere effort to maintain a strong image of herself. When 13-year-old Jody Shaw goes missing, Sam questions herself, her beliefs, and most importantly, the possibility of a miracle. Self-doubt resurfaces, the person she wants to see most is in alcohol treatment, and the only thing familiar to her are the bittersweet memories from a time when her family was still united. It is only through Jody’s brother Nick and spending time with her mom that positive change starts to take hold. Perhaps the miracles in the stories she's heard all her life will be more than just relics from the pas. Could they really be a symbol of hope for the present and into the future? This YA novel entwines faith, family, and community in a way that pushes readers to explore themselves. It can be a high interest / low readability book.

Type of Reading: independent reading, read aloud book

Recommended Age: read together: 12 and up; read yourself: 10 and Up

Interest Level: 12 and Up

Reading Level: 4.7

Age of Child: Teen STAR Review Team, Be the Star You Are!™

Young Reader Reaction: We see everything through Sam's perspective. The book is sectioned off by days like a diary, with newspaper excerpts to follow Jody’s kidnap case. This isn't a mystery, it is more about Sam's life, so the kidnapping is a side plot that moves through the story like a passing scene. The characters themselves are well developed, and their feelings really shine through the accuracy of the reactions. It is also worth noting that even though religion is part of the story, it is mainly used to establish Sam’s character and is integral to the nature of the town. It does not make the story sound too moralistic or preachy. There is a small romantic incident. It seems like it was an attempt to bring excitement to the plot, but it felt like a random scene added to complete Sam’s teenager image. Near the end of the book, the plot starts to show a pattern, and Sam’s actions become all too predictable. Fortunately, this issue is resolved with an ending that secures the main themes of faith, love, and family. It is a comforting book, but to be warned, there is a pretty gloomy mood that overlays the bulk of the story.

Adult Reader Reaction: Review pending.

Pros: Readers looking for a coming-of-age story with a strong female character will enjoy Once Was Lost.

Cons: Even though this has a Fourth Grade reading level, because of the main issues in the plot, this is better for a more mature audience (i.e., high school). The way it addresses the teenage years makes it more fitting for this age group than middle school.

Borrow or Buy: Borrow. The story is really good and you might just come back to it as a comfort read on a hard day. But we recommend borrowing it first to see if its a good fit.

If You Liked This Book, Try: Uglies by Scott Westerfield, Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins, and The Dairy of Anne Frank by Anne Frank NORTH OF BEAUTIFUL   ALL WE KNOW OF HEAVEN   TOUCH BLUE

Educational Themes: The angst and outside influences of being a teenager are the heart and core of this book ... which makes it a perfect choice for shared reading. We would recommend this for a family or parent-child book club.

Notes: The Reading Tub picked up an Advance Review Copy (ARC) at BookExpo America. February 2015: The book is now called What We Lost

Literary Categories: Fiction - family, coming of age, Young Adult

Date(s) Reviewed: February 2015

Other Reviews: See Critics' Reviews and reader feedback at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.




                 

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