The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

April 18, 2008

Book review: 'Lost Things' for adults, but holds appeal for teens

Teenagers are an interesting reader group.

Some teens identify with and love books that are shelved in the children’s department, some teens are insulted by the very idea of reading anything labeled “children,” and some are only interested in books that are primarily written for adults.

Of course, there are also teens who are willing to read anything that’s “good.” One of the jobs of librarians is to figure out what a person considers “good” (because it’s completely different from person to person) and connect that person with a “good” book. Award books sometimes make this process easier for librarians because they narrow down the vast number of quality books into manageable chunks.

The Alex Award is given each year to 10 adult books that have teen appeal by the Young Adult Library Services Association, a division of the American Library Association. “The Book of Lost Things” received an Alex Award in 2007.

‘The Book of Lost Things’

By John Connolly

David’s mother is dying, and David is crushed by the idea of losing her. He is so desperately trying to bring life back into her that he tries to be as well-behaved as he can be so that his mother doesn’t have to worry about him or scold him. He begins “routines” of touching faucets and door handles a prescribed number of times, and he begins to read his mother the fairy-tale stories she read to him as a child.

To David and his mother, stories come alive when they’re read, and they have a great desire to be read. So after his mother’s death, he is only mildly surprised when these books begin to whisper from their places on the shelves and he begins to have attacks where he passes out and dreams of the Crooked Man.

David’s anger at his father’s marriage to Rose and the birth of his attention-stealing half-brother, Georgie, makes David seek out his whispering books even more. He even begins reading and re-reading the really old fairy-tale books that came with his new bedroom. These books have all been written in with someone’s strange additions to the stories. They frighten David a little, but he can’t keep himself from reading them.

One night, after a particularly nasty fight with Rose, David is reading one of his books when he hears his mother calling to him from the garden below his window. He races outside and crawls through a large hole in the garden wall, following his mother’s voice. Once through the hole, he discovers that the garden and his house are gone and in their place is a new and very strange world. In some ways, this world is very much like the world of the fairy tales with which David is so familiar, but the details of the stories are skewed and much more ominous.

To get back home, David must find his way to the king’s castle and persuade him to use the magic found in the Book of Lost Things. The journey will be a difficult one full of danger because there is an evil surrounding David that is much stronger and more frightening than anything David has read about.

For more information about the Alex Awards, visit

Cari Boatright is the teen librarian at Joplin Public Library.