A Trick of the Light. Lois Metzger. Harper Collins. June, 2013. 208 pp. hbk. ISBN #: 978006213308.
Mike Welles seemed like a pretty together teen. He had good grades, was a good baseball outfielder, had a good friend in Tamio Weissberg, and had an okay home life that now seemed to be slowly unraveling. Tamio and Mike spent hours seeing what is known as stop- motion animation films and then discussing the techniques involved in making them. This involved making a small figure, like the well-known and well-loved figure King Kong, and then creating the illusion of movement by moving the figure multiple times over hundreds of frames. It turns out this mirrors or parallels what Mike is about to experience where a voice in his head is at first a minor presence and will soon become the guiding leader of Mike’s thoughts and actions, a process and journey that almost becomes fatal!
Mike’s parents leave him alone because they are involved in their own mid-life crisis and so there’s no one monitoring the gradual change in their son’s eating and exercising habits. Add to that Tamio becomes a relationship of the past as Mike fixes his attention on two girls in school, one a newcomer who is driven to become a famous ballet dancer and the other one who seems obsessed with healthy eating habits and exercise. Val and Amber couldn’t be more opposite personalities if they worked at it; when Val places her dancing over Mike, he interprets it as more rejection and links to Amber who feed his growing obsession with attaining the perfect physical body.
It’s rather obvious where this going and yet the author does a fine job of allowing one to sense something is dreadfully wrong but being unable to concretely pin down the looming crisis. This is a serious story that needs to be told, a seemingly innocuous path into which any teen boy could fall and one that is extremely difficult to offset. Mike remains a likeable character caught in a web of lies that everyone around him initially misses. His friends remain supportive and present in spite of Mike’s rejection of each one by one. The voice in Mike’s head is persistent but presented as not so intense until the very end of the story. The end of the story isn’t one that is fairy-tale “roses” but one that leaves the reader satisfied and hopeful about Mike’s future.
A Trick of the Light is a credible, all too real story that is fictional and yet bears far too much tragic reality. A must read for teens and their families and friends, as well as teachers of teens! Nicely done, Lois Metzger!