Book Reviews

One Was Lost by Natalie D. Richards

One Was Lost by Natalie D. Richards
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Who do I talk to about adapting a book to film?

Natalie D. Richards’ One Was Lost is haunting and chilling; it creeped me out and I want you just as unsettled by it. This story is every parents’ nightmare and no kid would dream this possibility. The eerie mystery of who and what is wrong in the remote West Virginia Appalachia forest is a page turner for which sleep can wait.

A senior experience week is fraught with inclement weather and plagued by a roguish bad boy that Sera Khoury has been desperately trying forget for months. Bad choices and poor judgement is something she has inherited from her mom and she is not going to travel down the road to ruin with a guy famous for a poor temperament and sexy smirk. Avoiding Lucas is key to a healthy state of mind. However, stranded in a wilderness Garden of Eden with people she doesn’t know, suddenly the boy she has denied is the only one she knows would never betray her.

Waking up next to a near stranger far from civilization is uncomfortable but the misgivings of the wilds are nothing when Sera realizes that she is muddy-headed from being drugged and she and her fellow campers have been marked by an unknown predator in the night. Being labeled is a normal high school roadblock but whispers behind your back is different than marker on your skin. More ominous is deciphering the nuance of words inked on their bodies beyond its most obvious definition. Is Lucas Dangerous in ways more nefarious than a couple schoolyard fights? Is Jude’s Deceptiveness pathological? Should the others fear the Damage ascribed to Emily? And is being the Darling of the group supposed to save Sera or does it make her a target.

My creeper old lady self is anxiously awaiting Lucas Crane to turn eighteen so it won’t be so awkward when I let my book boyfriend flag fly. Lucas is not only Sera’s crushnotcrush but he is well needed comic relief during the most tense portions of the novel. I highlighted his comebacks all through the book but one of my favorites being, about 65% through the book when Lucas and Sera find a vehicle to get them out of the woods.

“Can you hotwire it?”
“You mean from my stint in
Grand Theft Auto: The Reality Show?” He smirks up at me, holding something long and metal. “A few fights does not make me a car thief.”

One thing I love about this book is that it revels in the diversity we face in present-day society. Sera, Lucas, and their schoolmates Jude and Emily are gorgeously created characters deeply affected by real life teen issues and fears. The coming of age evolution of the main characters from innocent victims to battleworn comrades is couched in race, culture, trauma, stigma, pressure, self-awareness, and compassion. This ordeal stitches these people together instead of pulling them apart. It’s a great parallel to witness the horror they are facing in the woods and the terror of daily high school life. It’s never easy trusting someone and harder yet to trust yourself when you see a broken reflection of who you are in the judgements of others.

Possibly one of the most poignant moments of the book comes from Jude as he makes himself vulnerable to these new friends. As the sensitive, musical son of two gay dads he feels justifiably pinned down by the speculations of others. This being the first time Sera is forced to understand the consequences of her actions she becomes more and more aware of the way Jude’s personal boundaries are being crossed with every whisper and rumour. The invasion he feels is all the more real to her as she experiences their tormentor violating her sense of self at every level. Natalie D. Richards harshly awakens the reader with revealing dialogue between the characters.

“Is it hard?” This from Lucas. His soft sincerity surprises me.
“Not always. Lots of people want to be supportive, and most people try. But there’s always this moment when they hesitate. They’re thinking about it, trying to sort it all out. Should Pop go in the dentist box or the gay father box?”
“More labels,” I whisper.
He shrugs. “I was born into a stack of them. Cello prodigy. Person of color. Gay dads. I just want this part of me to be mine for now.”

Natalie D. Richards message, that it’s okay for a young person to respect themselves enough to keep some things private, is vital in our social-media-centric lives. It’s far too easy to over share, and impossible to take back once it’s out there. It’s acceptable to get comfortable with who you are before you share it openly. Circumspection is healthy. Jude is a great character because he is more interested in being okay with himself than trying to be something he isn’t ready to be for the sake of others.

One Was Lost is a story for a mature Young Adult audience; Natalie D. Richards touches on trigger issues looking at domestic abuse, bullying, sexuality, manipulation, abandonment, and the travails of class/social warfare. If you are a teacher this might be a book you want to add to your curriculum; this novel is an opportunity to open dialogue pertinent to current events and identify pervasive social myths.

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