A Trick of the Light
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A Trick of the Light

4.2 10
by Lois Metzger
     
 

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Mike Welles had everything under control.

He was a good student, an outfielder on the baseball team, a good son, a loyal friend. But that was before. Now things are rough at home, and they're getting confusing at school. He's losing his sense of direction, and he feels like a mess.

Then there's a voice in his head. A friend, trying to help him regain control.

Overview

Mike Welles had everything under control.

He was a good student, an outfielder on the baseball team, a good son, a loyal friend. But that was before. Now things are rough at home, and they're getting confusing at school. He's losing his sense of direction, and he feels like a mess.

Then there's a voice in his head. A friend, trying to help him regain control. More than that: The voice can guide him to become better and stronger than he was before, to rid his life of everything holding him back. To figure out who he is again. If only Mike will listen.

Writing with devastating power and precision, acclaimed author Lois Metzger gives us the story of one young man's battle with his own shadows—a spare, stark, and vital tale of the way in which the things we build to protect ourselves can threaten to destroy us.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The story of 15-year-old Mike Welles’s descent into anorexia is narrated by the disease itself, the insidious voice inside his head preying on his every vulnerability. The voice waits patiently for an opening, which comes in the form of Mike’s parents’ marital crisis and his insecurity around a new crush, pushing Mike to exercise, coaching him to subsist on next to nothing, and encouraging a friendship with Amber, who is also anorexic. Mike drops weight, isolates himself, and yearns to be thinner, which he equates with true strength. A therapist eventually tells Mike that he has been eclipsed and, “the only real thing about you now is your eating disorder.” Metzger, in her first novel since Missing Girls (1999), lays bare this truth in an unsettling story that offers a painful and necessary account of how eating disorders affect boys, too. Metzger’s choice to cast the disease in the role of narrator forces readers inside Mike’s head, an extremely uncomfortable yet illuminating way to examine this lethal disease. Ages 14–up. Agent: Susan Cohen, Writers House. (June)
VOYA - Johanna Nation-Vallee
Mike Welles's life is spiraling out of control. His parents are getting a divorce and he is having trouble at school. He has gained weight and is beginning to feel distanced from his best friend. What is even worse is that he now has a voice in his head telling him what to do. The voice says it is Mike's friend and wants to help him regain control: by changing his diet, working out, and ridding himself of people he cannot trust. As the voice gains more and more influence in Mike's life, readers begin to wonder if it is truly a friend or not. A Trick Of The Light is full of unexpected elements that will keep readers interested. Throughout the narrative of a teenage boy undergoing a personal crisis, Metzger describes and develops several types of relationships: between friends, between children and parents, among students and teachers, and finally, between Mike and himself. It provides a thought-provoking look at how teens approach difficult problems and solve them. At the same time, the book provides a twist on Mike's situation by narrating it from the perspective of the voice in his head. This book should appeal broadly to a high school population. Both boys and girls will enjoy the story of a boy dealing with a pain that is all-too-common among teenagers and it is suitable for all ages. Reviewer: Johanna Nation-Vallee
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—This is a somewhat familiar story told in a new way: from the disease's point of view. Mike's home life is crumbling. His father has left for a much younger woman, and his mother can barely get out of bed. But the narrative voice readers hear is not that of the 14-year-old, but rather his insecurities, bitterness, and, ultimately, his anorexia. "The voice" eventually eclipses his personality. Mike befriends an anorexic girl who encourages the destructive inner voice and teaches him how to stop eating while fooling those around him. He buys himself a distorted mirror in which he appears ugly and misshapen and looks only at this image of himself. Soon enough, Mike ends up in a hospital for kids with eating disorders. He leaves restored to health, but still prey to his insecurities. Mike's stalwart friend and their mutual devotion to the art of stop-motion animation ultimately silence the voice. A chilling, straightforward novel written with depth and understanding, A Trick of the Light shows readers that they must always be vigilant about the voice they listen to-even when it is their own.—Nina Sachs, Walker Memorial Library, Westbrook, ME
Kirkus Reviews
A young stop-motion-film enthusiast's encounter with anorexia, as narrated by...his eating disorder? Readers first meet Mike through the eyes of an unidentified narrator who is following him. It gradually becomes clear that the narrator is not a person but a voice Mike sometimes hears. The voice gains influence when Mike's father leaves his mother for a younger woman, and soon, Mike is starving himself. A new friend, Amber Alley, teaches him to eat as little as possible and gives him tips on how to hide what he's doing from his parents. Mike's eating disorder ramps up jarringly quickly, particularly given that its only apparent external trigger is a conversation in which Mike hounds a girl to go out with him, then demands to know if her refusal is because he's fat (whether Mike is fat by anyone's standards but the voice's is unclear from the text). The story is well-plotted and its prose engaging, but the central conceit leaves a distracting number of questions unanswered. Who is this voice? What are its motivations? Why does it choose Mike? An ambitious and unusual take on teens and eating disorders--but not an entirely satisfactory one. (Fiction. 12-18)
Katie Haegele
“A unique look at mental illness [and a] powerful method of illustrating the warped thinking that characterizes an eating disorder. This unusual and moving novel addresses complicated ideas, and is ultimately a hopeful tale about coming back to life.”
Jill Ratzan
“The [narrative] voice in A Trick of the Light is manipulative and deceitful, drawing readers into Mike’s head and forcing them to decide for themselves what’s true and what’s twisted. Don’t be misled by the book’s small size: This slim volume packs a big emotional punch.”
Pamela Thompson
“Stunning, heart-wrenching, and painful, yet uplifting and hopeful, A Trick of the Light is an important book for teens. Told from the male point of view, A Trick of the Light addresses negative body image and weight issues for boys.”
Beth Kephart
“A new and important look at an issue that deserves our attention, and compassion.”
Todd Strasser
“A Trick of the Light is a marvel. It’s hard to imagine a more convincing and insightful depiction of a teenager dealing with a serious personal issue, and yet the story does so in a mysterious and unexpected way.”
Robert Crais
“A Trick of the Light should be required reading in our schools. Rendered with sensitivity and intelligence, Metzger’s beautifully drawn novel illuminates the sneaky-insidious nature of eating disorders with clarity, heart-rending honesty, and hope.”
James Howe
“A Trick of the Light is a masterpiece of narrative voice, riveting from beginning to end. I can honestly say I’ve never read anything like it. Stunningly original and profoundly insightful, this book has touched me as a reader and inspired me as a writer.”
Richard Peck
“Mike’s world is beginning to spin out of control. But the voice in his head can tell him exactly how to “master the chaos” in this horror story wrapped in reality. A Trick of the Light deserves to stand on the same shelf as Laurie Halse Anderson’s Wintergirls.”
Rita Williams-Garcia
“Lois Metzger’s deeply interior story sheds necessary light on an otherwise unspoken pain. A must-read.”
Patricia McCormick
“At its heart, A Trick of the Light is a compassionate and inventive exploration of a little-understood behavior that plagues a surprising number of young men.”
The Horn Book
“Startlingly original… Metzger’s compelling psychological drama takes on the subject of a boy with an eating disorder. The narrative voice-Mike’s eating disorder, personified-is the star of this masterfully written novel, which becomes a horror story of sorts.”
Michael Cart
“Metzger’s cautionary tale is made more powerful and dramatic by her choice of narrator: the voice in Mike’s head. Readers will be easily caught by the quandary: Will the voice prevail, or will Mike recover control of his mind-and his body-before it’s too late?”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780062133083
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
06/18/2013
Pages:
196
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.90(d)
Lexile:
HL550L (what's this?)
Age Range:
14 Years

What People are saying about this

Rita Williams-Garcia
“Lois Metzger’s deeply interior story sheds necessary light on an otherwise unspoken pain. A must-read.”
James Howe
“A Trick of the Light is a masterpiece of narrative voice, riveting from beginning to end. I can honestly say I’ve never read anything like it. Stunningly original and profoundly insightful, this book has touched me as a reader and inspired me as a writer.”
Richard Peck
“Mike’s world is beginning to spin out of control. But the voice in his head can tell him exactly how to “master the chaos” in this horror story wrapped in reality. A Trick of the Light deserves to stand on the same shelf as Laurie Halse Anderson’s Wintergirls.”
Patricia McCormick
“At its heart, A Trick of the Light is a compassionate and inventive exploration of a little-understood behavior that plagues a surprising number of young men.”

Meet the Author

Lois Metzger was born in Queens and has always written for young adults. Her novels include the acclaimed A Trick of the Light and Change Places with Me. She has also written two nonfiction books about the Holocaust and has edited five anthologies. Her short stories have appeared in collections all over the world; her writing has also appeared in The New Yorker, The Nation, and The Huffington Post. She lives in New York City with her husband and son.

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A Trick of the Light 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
literarymuseVC More than 1 year ago
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!
bookwonder More than 1 year ago
Great book that combines humor and terror, a driving fast-forward story about Mike Welles, a young man with a secret and an inner voice. Terrific characters and beautiful writing, this is a perfect book for anyone who has struggled with a dark side, a great book also for reluctant readers. Best YA book of 2013 so far. 
secondhandclothes More than 1 year ago
very fine book about a young man's struggle with an eating disorder and all that it brings in its wake-- the self-deception, the lying, the rejection of friends and loved ones. But this dark journey is told with enormous humor and wisdom and grace, and moves forward at an intense and galloping pace. This is one book you are not going to want to put down. The narrative voice is very original and works beautifully. Terrific YA book that adults will also want to read. 
MissPrint More than 1 year ago
Let's say 3.5 stars. Full review: Mike Welles thought his life was pretty great. He did well in school, he played on the school baseball team. He and his best friend Tamio have a great time talking about stop motion animation and watching old movies. Everything was fine. That was before things started going wrong at home. Mike's parents started to act strangely. Especially his mom. And his dad is just gone for huge chunks of time. Mike thinks he can still handle all of the changes--even talking to a beautiful new girl at school--but it just keeps getting worse. He's out of shape. He's losing control. It's all just so wrong. Mike keeps hearing a voice that wants to help him. The voice says that Mike can be stronger. Better. But no one else can hear the voice. And the voice never tells Mike what that kind of strength can cost him in A Trick of the Light (2013) by Lois Metzger. At a slim 208 pages (hardcover) it is really hard to talk about this book without spoiling some of the twists Metzger has skillfully created. Suffice it to say, Mike is in trouble. What I can tell you is that despite touching on some familiar territory, Metzger comes at the issues in A Trick of the Light in a very clever and original way. Mike is not the typical protagonist in this type of story. The narrator of this book is not typical either. (It's not a spoiler to say it is not Mike but I'll leave it at that.) Metzger's choice of narrator is extremely interesting and makes for a very creepy read. At the same time it also adds a lot of distance between Mike and the reader as Mike's story is told at a remove. The technique works but it does make the book a little confusing at first. That said, once you get into the rhythm of the story this book really takes off. Metzger expertly draws readers into Mike's struggles without ever coming across as heavy-handed or preachy. A Trick of the Light is a subtle, engrossing read that would be ideal for reluctant and avid readers alike. Possible Pairings: Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson, Skinny by Donna Crooner, Everybody Sees the Ants by A. S. King, The Beautiful Between by Courtney B. Sheinmel, Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff
acornucopiaoflove More than 1 year ago
Best Bits: I hope that this review does A Trick of the Light justice. I've read two excellent (and very different) books involving eating disorders in the last couple of weeks, and I've been struggling with how to convey it to readers without fangirling too much. I'm not going to say that eating disorders are an easy topic to read about, but when they're done well I believe that they have the ability to educate, and hold the attention of the reader. This book was done in a way that allows the reader to see how gradual Mike's experience with anorexia comes on, and how powerful it's hold is. It also dispels the myth that it's just a "girl" thing. The narration was amazing, the characters were fascinating, and everything just felt real. Of course, everyone's ED (short for eating disorder) experiences are different, but nothing felt forced. I think that another gift Metzger gives to the reader is an understanding of how anorexia helps Mike cope, but at the same time see how bad it is for him. Through the narration we understand what thoughts invade Mike's senses to help him feel in control, but it gets the point where the reader just wants to see him well again. I wanted to see him fight back against anorexia. In short: This book provides an accurate and compelling portrayal of an underrepresented population in YA lit, boys with eating disorders; I'm eternally grateful for this fresh read. Nit Picks: It's rare, but I've got nothing. This book was a near perfect read. I wish it had been a bit longer, but at the same time I can't imagine anything that has been left out. I guess I just want to grab more book by Metzger!
BooksWithBite More than 1 year ago
When it comes to eating disorders, we quickly think of girls. We hardly ever think of men having trouble with their appearance. Plot: Watching a young man spiral down the road of bulimia is hard. I have hard time reading about girls doing it. Mike thinks he can be in control of what he does to his body. The way he down spirals is something hard to watch. He pushes away everyone. From parents (the parents are crap anyway) to his friends. Family: The one thing that ticked me off the most about this book is the family. UGH! They are frustrating beyond belief. Not to mention they think of nothing but themselves. It’s no wonder this kid spiraled down with no one to ever catch him.  Eating disorders: I think this book is very educational when it comes to a male point of view. Just like girls, guys too have problems with self-esteem. They just know how to hide it more. I’m glad that I got to journey though this. It will help me understand more. Overall, this is a good book. It’s move slowly in the beginning but the build up to final act of Mike admitting his problem is amazing. A Trick Of The Light is an good book.
Andreat78 More than 1 year ago
A Trick of the Light was a very tough story for me. Very tough. I didn't have a hard time because I didn't like it, I did. It was hard because it struck just a little too close to home. So well that I kept putting it down, looking at my husband, and saying "I'm scared, because I have had these same thoughts swirling around in my own head." Mike Welles's life is out of control. His dad is absent, his mom is emotionally absent, and he has no control over anything. Except for his body. Mike finds a way to regain power over his life, an eating disorder. Anorexia, that voice in his head that promises control, is the narrator of A Trick of the Light, and as odd as that seems, it works. This disease tells the story of how it waited, put thoughts into Mike's vulnerable mind, and struck when it sensed his weakness. Feeling bad about yourself? Run more laps. Upset with your mom for not being dependable? Do more pushups. Don't listen to your friend or teacher when they tell you that you're too thin. They're just jealous. And always, always deny. A Trick of the Light is a shockingly accurate depiction of a life consumed by an eating disorder. I have my own personal issues with this subject; it's one I've battled for most of my life. What makes me sad is that I never considered this subject from a male point-of-view. As a wife, I am working on being more sensitive about male body image. As a mom, I am adamant about being just as aware of what is going on in my son's life in this respect as I am my daughter's. I have many years of experience that came into play while reading the story. What I am most curious about is what a teen's thoughts would be after reading this. A Trick of the Light is a very imaginative and strong take on the psychological aspect of eating disorders. And while I felt uncomfortable and stressed while reading it, I do believe that it is a powerful story that needed to be told.
Nancy_TumblingBooks More than 1 year ago
When I first heard about A Trick of the Light, I was super excited to read it. This was not my first book about characters suffering from an eating disorder, so I was fairly certain that I knew what to expect. The big difference between this book and any other book on the same topic that I’ve read is that A Trick of the Light has a male protagonist with anorexia. I’ve seen a few books with a male character who has an eating disorder, but I never really felt compelled to read them. With A Trick of the Light, what drew me in was that Mike, the protagonist, had a voice in his head which was a prominent part of the story. It guided him and made choices for him. I wanted to know more about this voice, about how it controlled him and why he allowed it to. The voice in his head was an even bigger part of the book than I thought it would be, as it was the narrator of the story. I just loved that! It was the disease speaking to me and FOR him. The voice was definitely at the forefront of Mike’s mind, it became much more important than everything else in his life. The voice controlled him, as I said, and it was interesting to read just how easily Mike fell for everything that it told him. I really liked the way that Mike’s home life was described in this book. I was able to understand his predicament and why he was having such a difficult time with everything. Nothing in his life was going well at all. The highlight of A Trick of the Light, however, was definitely the voice inside Mike’s head, which I thought was very well done. I’m still thinking about how creepy it was and how much of a hold it had on Mike’s life. Though I really enjoyed this book, the only problem that I had was that it was far too short. I would have liked for the story to have been a bit more spaced out, so that I could learn more about Mike, his family, and what was going on in his head. Overall, I thought the book was very good, despite how short it was. It would have definitely been a five if it had been longer, so that I could have gotten to know the characters more.
ImaginaryReads More than 1 year ago
A Trick of the Light is a deep, compelling novel about a teen boy's struggle to adjust with the sudden changes around and within him and to regain control of his life. It's easy to sympathize with Mike. Over the past months, he's watched his parents drift apart to the point that they often don't feel like dealing with him or even forget his existence. His dad stays out more often, and his mom seems to be falling into a depression. Only the voice in his head seems to care about him, so it's no surprise that he turns to it. Even though his best friend Tamio, a nice person and fellow stop-motion movie buff, wants to be there for him, I can understand how Mike wants to get away from the outside world a little and turn inwards to himself, where he has some semblance of control. For much of the story, I wasn't sure whether or not the voice in Mike's head really was trying to help him or not. It speaks with reason and talks as if it has Mike's best interests in mind. Whether or not it was actually giving Mike sound advice was the question. The more Mike's obsession with his body increases, however, the more he pushes away the people who genuinely care about him. It's sad to watch Mike as he turns his back on the things and people he loves so much. At the same time, I appreciate how the voice has been developed. Because it's speaks with such reason, it's hard not to trust it, and both the reader and Mike have to work out the true implications behind its words. I like how the story is told from the voice's perspectives. Because it knows Mike so well, it gives us insight into Mike's life through both its perspective and that of Mike's. And because it's a biased narrator, it throws Mike's world into confusion, as we don't know who to trust, which reflects Mike's life as he is also being influenced by the voice. I also like how stop-motion movies play a role in this novel. Mike is obsessed with them, as is his friend Tamio, and they play a role in his healing process. It gives him a way to work out the monsters in his life, as he figures out just what the voice in his head has been doing to him. Mike's story gives insight into a rarely breached side of eating disorders -- that of males -- in a way that brings the characters and emotions to life. I recommend this to readers looking for a realistic dark YA contemporary read.
Amabe421 More than 1 year ago
* I had an audiobook copy of this so my review is based off of both the content and the audio itself. This is a hard book to review. It's not that I didn't like it because it was good, but I think I just feel indifferent. This is one of those books that I just don't think translates well into an audio. It felt like someone was reading a screenplay to me and it just seemed odd. On paper I don't think it would have seemed weird, and I think I would have gotten used to it, but as an audio the way it's written didn't work well for me. So that being said, it was an interesting book, and it was about much more than a boys struggle with an eating disorder. It's told from the voice in his head, or the eating disorder we come to realize pretty quickly. I liked that. This was very complex, but came across as simple due to they style of writing. It never had the emotional impact I think it was supposed to, but it was hard for me to connect to Mr. Eating Disorder who is the one telling the story. So although we are in Mike's head, it's not in his POV. We go through this with the illness in his head talking to us and telling us what he sees and hears. He is insistent and persuasive. Of course, it's not really the illness, it's Mike, but this is obviously how he feels, and he lets this inner voice control what he does. His family is falling apart, the girl he likes is afraid of him, and he is jealous and resentful of his best friend. He really hits a low point, and the voice in his head gives him the strength and power he craves. It tells him he's fat so he needs to exercise, he's pathetic and his friend is way hotter than him and that's why the girl doesn't want him. He needs Amber, who has an eating disorder herself. She helps him to know how to go about it without alerting people what he's doing. This "voice" has total control over him. The sad thing is, his family is too busy falling apart to notice what is happening to Mike until it's gone too far. I myself was close to having an eating disorder when I was younger, so this book really spoke to me, even if I didn't quite connect. I think it's an important topic, and more than that, the MC is male which you don't see often in books that tackle issues like this. I did competitive gymnastics, so I know how it feels to want to be a few pounds lighter, look a little slimmer in the form fitting leotards, be able to jump or flip higher. I would look in the mirror and see someone who I wasn't. This book really helps to understand how the illness affects the mind. Overall I did like it. I think it is an important issue that more people should be aware of. Especially that it's not just a female illness. I know that people do know that, but it's always more pushed as something that females deal with and not addressed that males do too. Everyone has body issues at some point or another whether it's logical or not. This really goes into the mind of the illness and how someone might think if they were going through this. Beyond that, it's about family issues too. These characters really need their parents, and it seems like they just brush them aside and don't pay attention. It was a quick read that I think would benefit people who are dealing with similar issues, or just want to know more about it without seeming so clinical. I would recommend the regular book rather than the audio though, only because I don't think this writing style works well in audio format. *An advanced copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review. I did not receive any compensation.