Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

Sorry You're Lost
  • Alternative view 1 of Sorry You're Lost
  • Alternative view 2 of Sorry You're Lost

Sorry You're Lost

5.0 1
by Matt Blackstone

See All Formats & Editions

When Denny "Donuts" Murphy's mother dies, he becomes the world's biggest class clown. But deep down, Donuts just wants a normal life—one where his mom is still alive and where his dad doesn't sit in front of the TV all day. And so Donuts tries to get back into the groove by helping his best friend with their plan to get dates for the end-of-the-year school


When Denny "Donuts" Murphy's mother dies, he becomes the world's biggest class clown. But deep down, Donuts just wants a normal life—one where his mom is still alive and where his dad doesn't sit in front of the TV all day. And so Donuts tries to get back into the groove by helping his best friend with their plan to get dates for the end-of-the-year school dance. When their scheme backfires, he learns that laughter is not the best medicine for all of his problems. Sometimes it's just as important to be true to yourself.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Blackstone (A Scary Scene in a Scary Movie) returns with a humorous and graceful novel about seventh-grader Denny Murphy, who is trying to keep it together in the aftermath of his mother’s death. The narrative opens with Denny’s mother’s funeral, where Denny can only focus on the priest’s pathetic speech and his own underperforming deodorant, then picks up several months later, with Denny acting out wildly at school. The title refers to a misspelled note of condolence that Denny receives, but it also accurately reflects his state of being, as he flounders with his withdrawn father and his peers. The novel’s middle-school dynamics are particularly strong, especially Denny’s relationships with his oddball and entrepreneurial best friend Manny—who talks like an aristocrat and cons Denny into selling candy in the halls—and Denny’s crush, the studious Sabrina. Denny and his father’s inability to communicate, despite their shared loss, lends a stark and raw tension that eventually boils to the surface in this poignant account of a boy grappling with a gaping void in his life. Ages 10–14. Agent: Michelle Andelman, Regal Literary. (Jan.)
From the Publisher

“A story of substance and hope.” —The Horn Book

“Nothing short of heartbreakingly authentic.” —Booklist

“Blackstone returns with a humorous and graceful novel . . . The novel's middle-school dynamics are particularly strong, especially Denny's relationships with his oddball and entrepreneurial best friend Manny--who talks like an aristocrat and cons Denny into selling candy in the halls--and Denny's crush, the studious Sabrina. Denny and his father's inability to communicate, despite their shared loss, lends a stark and raw tension that eventually boils to the surface in this poignant account of a boy grappling with a gaping void in his life. ” —Publishers Weekly

“For middle school readers, a painful, funny and realistic picture of a family coming to terms with loss.” —Kirkus Reviews

Sorry You're Lost is that most rare of books: it is honest. Oh, I could go on and on about the amazing voice of Donuts Murphy, and the astonishing cast of characters, and the hilarious plot Donuts embarks upon. But it is the honesty of the book that stops us short: Truth #1: the world is not fair. Truth #2: bad things happen. And Truth #3: we must make our way even if Truth #1 and Truth #2 have smacked us in the face. But this story does not stop with that. There's Truth #4: this novel, with humor and sadness and healing and reality and sweetness, wonderfully proclaims, Life is flabbergasting.” —Gary Schmidt, two-time Newbery Honor-winning author of The Wednesday Wars and Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy

“Sorry You're Lost is overflowing with emotion, energy, and voice. It's all at once surprisingly funny, yet sad, uncomfortably open and honest, and ultimately endearing. It will likely be one of the best books you read this year.” —Chris Rylander, author of The Fourth Stall

Sorry You're Lost spins candy straws into gold, delivering an up close and original look at a boy coming to terms with loss. Through funny scenes, sad scenes, and candy schemes, from antics and avoidance to awareness and acceptance, readers take the journey with Denny.” —Michael Northrop, author of Trapped and Plunked

VOYA, February 2014 (Vol. 36, No. 6) - Stacy Holbrook
In the style of Jack Gantos, Jerry Spinelli, and James Patterson’s Middle School series, Blackstone presents a character full of wry humor and sarcasm delivered with repeated emotional punches to the gut. After his mother dies, Denny “Donuts” Murphy becomes an obnoxious class clown, “pretending” in order to escape his feelings about his mother. To deal with his emotions, Denny draws attention to himself; if people can laugh with him, they will not laugh at him. At home, all Denny really wants is to have a conversation with his dad, who escapes his own feelings by watching TV and eating buckets of fried chicken. When his pushy friend, Manny, comes up with a scheme to get dates for a dance by selling candy, Denny agrees; the distraction is what Denny needs to stop thinking about his mom, his distant dad, and the emotions that are caught inside of him. Reading Sorry You’re Lost is like watching an independent movie with Michael Cera—lots of awkward teen behavior with the authentic inner dialogue of an anxiety-ridden teenage boy. Denny is both annoying and endearing at the same time. The candy scheme is a little unrealistic at times, as is the ending—Manny showing up to the dance in a helicopter—but the character development is spot-on, and teens will love the book for its raw emotion mixed with humor. Every librarian will know a teen able to relate to Denny, making this a recommended title for any library. Reviewer: Stacy Holbrook; Ages 12 to 18.
Children's Literature - Meredith Kiger
Denny and Manny are seventh graders experiencing the typical anomie of most middle schoolers, only they have taken it to the max! Denny recently lost his mother to illness, which only adds to his feelings of being lost. His father is still grieving, acting weird and is no support for Denny. Denny and Manny, as a result of their feeling of being outsiders, concoct a plan to market candy in school to win their classmates approval, make some money, and possibly secure a date to the seventh grade dance. As the scheme progresses, they deal with the normal life of seventh graders, i.e. jealousy, bullying, girls, acting out in class and generally, wishing they were somewhere else. This funny and cleverly written novel’s humor is almost too sophisticated for middle schoolers to appreciate, yet readers will identify with the themes and witty jargon. The crack about the wisdom of reading aloud in class will make everyone smile. It makes one wonder why middle schools are not more adept at dealing with a stage of development that seems more universal than not. It is refreshing to read about the male point of view at this age and it is right on. Reviewer: Meredith Kiger, Ph.D.; Ages 10 to 13.
School Library Journal
Gr 6–8—Denny "Donuts" Murphy is a champion pretender. He is a whiz at feigning that he and his father have a great relationship, that he is content to be the class clown, that he doesn't worry about others' opinions of him, but most of all, he is gifted at pretending that his mother is still alive. To this end, Donuts even carries her old cell phone and "talks" to her when he needs a sounding board. Manny, Donuts' self-involved best friend, is neglected by his own mother and father and has taken to grieving the death of Mrs. Murphy as his own parental loss. Craving an all-encompassing distraction, Donuts lets Manny talk him into a candy-selling scheme designed to help the boys score dates for the upcoming seventh grade dance. The plan spins out of control, but through quick wit and innate charm, Donuts ends up coming out on top. Although the plot begins slowly, Blackstone manages to craft true-to-life characters who eventually work through their demons with their sense of self wholly intact. Readers looking for a modern tale about fitting in need look no further.—Colleen S. Banick, Westport Public Schools, CT
Kirkus Reviews
After his mother's death from cancer, New Jersey seventh-grader Denny "Donuts" Murphy's carefully crafted clown persona gets him in trouble at school without easing his grief. As a distraction, his best (and only) friend, Manny, enlists him in a candy-sales scheme to make enough money to hire helicopters or whatever it might take to entice eighth-grade "hotties" to accompany them to the spring dance. But Denny would prefer classmate Sabrina, who seems to like him. Further complicating this story of healing-in-progress is the boy's 300-pound father's withdrawal. Both father and son are lost in their personal miseries—a point underscored with references to Les Misérables. The first-person narration chronicles six months of madcap behavior, flights of fancy and flashbacks revealing the reasons behind Denny's downward spiral and predictable meltdown. The boys' freedom to roam the halls of Blueberry Hills Middle School (limited only by encounters with a villainous eighth-grader) is surprising, but otherwise the school setting will be familiar, populated by some sympathetic adult characters as well as some less attractive ones. While some readers may tire of Denny's frenetic goings-on, others, like Sabrina, will watch and wait patiently. They will be pleased by the improbable outcome. For middle school readers, a painful, funny and realistic picture of a family coming to terms with loss. (Fiction. 11-15)

Product Details

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.40(d)
820L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Related Subjects

Read an Excerpt

Sorry You're Lost

By Matt Blackstone

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Copyright © 2014 Matt Blackstone
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-374-38065-6



October 13th

There's a gum wrapper at my feet. Juicy Fruit. I wish I knew who dropped it so I could tell him not to litter at my mom's funeral. The room is musty and smells of lemon. My starchy shirt and stiff suit are drenched in sweat. The priest tells me it's time. Not for telling people to pick up their gum wrappers, but time for the service. Time to speak. For him to speak. We declined the chance. Like this:

Dad: "You want to say anything at the service, Denny?"

Me: "In front of people?"

Dad: "Yeah."

Me: "Well then, no."

Dad: "Me neither. Don't think I'll get any words out."

We sit in the front row. The priest is able to get words out of his mouth; they just aren't any good. He keeps using the word "essentially" to cover up the fact that he has no clue what to say because he has no clue who my mom is. Was. She's now past tense, like anything else that happened yesterday: the news, the weather, the ball game.

"Susan Murphy was a loving mother and wife," the priest says. "Essentially, she was truly a model citizen." I want to interrupt him and stand up and shout, "NO ONE CARES THAT SHE WAS A MODEL CITIZEN. No one cares that she was a member of the PTA. That's not why we're here. We're here because she was mine and now she isn't."

He continues. "She loved her tea. Essentially, she loved tea in the same way she loved her friends and family. She was always there for them in their time of need. She was a hard worker and an avid reader. She was truly a loving and lovely woman."

There he goes again, reading the CliffsNotes—The Life and Times of Essentially Susan Murphy—and man, I want to run onstage and shake him and scream, "You don't know her! She was the best! She is the best. The best at telling my dad to swallow a bottle of chill pills, the best at making me do math homework, the best at waking me up on time for school after I fall back to sleep the first three times, the best at packing my favorite cereal, the best at carpooling to soccer practice without saying anything too embarrassing. (Though she did once call me Honey Bunches of Oats. In public. At school, in the hallway. And everyone heard. Everyone. And she did once write on my lunch box, 'Enjoy the Honey Bunches of Oats, My Honey Bunches of Oats.') But she's still the best! The best at making soup when I'm sick. The best! Don't you know that?"

I almost stand up and do it. Rush the stage, I mean. I even raise my heels and flex my calf muscles, but there are over fifty people sitting behind me and sweat is leaking down my neck and my skin is on fire. It's hard to rush the stage when you're on fire.

I peek behind me. Manny's in the fourth row, wiping his eyes. I don't recognize anyone else. Because I don't want to. That way I won't feel bad when I bust free, which is what my legs have been screaming for me to do: LEAVE! RUN! GET ME OUTTA HERE!

Manny would know how to get home from here. He's my best friend, not because I like him a whole lot or because we have much in common, but because he's always been there, like some prehistoric insect that survived the test of time. If I told Manny my scheme, he'd push his thin-rimmed glasses up his skinny nose, twirl a strand of his gelled hair, raise his pencil-point eyebrows (he says he raises his eyebrows when deep in thought because his intellect is "highbrow"), rub his chin, and say, "Indeed, it is quite a flabbergasting conundrum: How can one elude one's family and/or bamboozle the guards? Some might say that we must let the question marinate to allow the maximum amount of brain juice to saturate this meaty dilemma, but not I." [Cue the scheme, the mathematical computations on our average speed and distance required to cover, the risk analysis on driving without a license—five years before you're even eligible for a license, a second reference to ushers as "guards," a timed escape at the "changing of the guards," and a request for a "nominal monetary reward" for his "infrastructure of knowledge."]

If you're wondering why Manny talks funny, it's because he thinks he's smarter than everyone else, and he probably is. Manny doesn't ever blend words by using contractions. That would be too informal and improper. He once saw someone wearing a T-shirt that read "Nobody's perfect. Except me." Manny fell in love with the shirt but disapproved of the contraction, so he had a shirt specially made that read "Nobody is perfect. Except me." He wears it nearly every single day. He's probably got it on now underneath his black suit, not that it really matters what he's wearing. Not that it matters what anyone's wearing or doing or saying or thinking or chewing.

Though I really wish someone would pick up that Juicy Fruit wrapper.

* * *

The car is black and the seats are black, but as I look out the window, it feels like any other day. The sky is light blue, the leaves are orange and yellow, the air is crisp and cold like an apple from the refrigerator, the roads are clear, and the restaurants we pass are still open for business. The red McDonald's sign beneath the golden arches brags of billions served. Though I'm not the least bit hungry, I'm aware that it's lunchtime. I want to pretend that it's a regular ride home, but my dad isn't driving. He's sitting next to me, staring out the window, his whole body clenched like a fist. I realize that mine is, too. I tell it to relax and stop sweating, please stop sweating, but it doesn't listen. I want to tell the driver with the stupid black hat to turn on the stupid air-conditioning, but my mouth isn't working. Unfortunately, the radio is. The whole way home all I can think is, That song is ruined. And so is that one. And that one. Now that song is ruined, too.

When we pull into the small driveway, my body is still on fire.

At least there's no music in our house—if you don't count the murmured sound track of visitors. They're gathered in the family room. Though I'm not sure they're family. And even if they are, I'd trade them all for my mom. For just one more year or month or day or afternoon with her. I take a peek down the hall and notice most of them are strangers.

I also notice that I smell. My black suit is a damp towel and my white shirt is a soaked, stinking mess. There's so much I want to say, want to write down, but first: Dear Old Spice deodorant, I'm glad we recently met each other. I thought we had a good thing going. A real solid relationship. But you're a traitor and you're weak and I smell. I know I shouldn't think about it, but thinking about it makes me not think about it. Why we're here, I mean. Why I'm on fire.

Neighbors and old friends and people claiming to be my cousins hug me. "I'm sorry for sweating on you," I tell them. They say their thoughts and prayers are with me, but nothing extinguishes the fire. Not their hugs or their platters of food or the pile of phony sympathy cards written by some guy with a waxy mustache sitting in an attic that smells of mothballs. That's the way I picture it anyway. The image isn't comforting. And neither is the one in my family room. A play-off baseball game is on. The Phillies just blew a save in the bottom of the ninth, and the people on the brown velvet couch are muttering under their breath, grunts and grumbles and groans, but they manage to shove chocolate chip cookies and apple cake and corned beef sandwiches in their mouths. They talk politics and baseball and tell jokes like "You heard about the constipated accountant? He couldn't budget." This from someone claiming to be my uncle twice-removed. I think I get his joke but it still isn't funny.

What is funny is that the guy's got mustard on his mustache. Not the brown spicy kind with seeds; the yellow one, bright as a highlighter, a neon blob on the side of his mouth. Each time he takes another bite, the mustard quivers. I want to laugh because "mustard" and "mustache" sound similar and anything stuck in a mustache is funny, especially yellow mustard, but I can't cry and I can't laugh—at this or the next joke from Uncle Mustard's son, Cousin Mustard, aka My Long-Lost-and-Should've-Remained-Lost Cousin: "Why couldn't the pirate get into the movie? Any guesses? Anyone? It was rated Arrrrrrr."

Saw that coming a mile away, but didn't have enough energy to stop it—or the next, from Uncle Mustard: "Last week I met this dog that could talk, I swear. I asked him what's on top of a house and he said, 'Roof!' I asked him what's on the outside of a tree and he said, 'Bark!' I asked him what's the feel of sandpaper and he said, 'Rough!' And then I asked him who the thirtieth president of the United States was and he scratched his head thoughtfully and said, 'Calvin Coolidge?'"

Someone tells Uncle Mustard to wipe his mouth. "Hey, it is what it is," I hear Uncle Mustard say, though I'm not sure whether he's talking about the mustard or why everyone's gathered here. I want to ask him and hear him lie, tell me what he thinks I want to hear, and I'll slash through, cross out, slice through all the phony bologna (though I know he's eating corned beef, not bologna, and it's not phony bologna, it's real bologna, and it's already sliced). I want to get to the real truth about whether these people even care, but Uncle Mustard is already walking away and I don't want to yell.

I turn my attention to my dad, who, instead of greeting guests at the door, permits entry, his wide body stepping aside with a curt nod. He looks like a bouncer. He must think uncle impersonators will barge in and steal the corned beef. You can steal a lot from my dad (not that I do) and he won't notice, but steal his food ... cue the sirens, call the authorities. It's best to alert someone before the explosion, as it's tough putting him back together again.

My dad greets Manny at the door and allows him entry. Manny's eyes look red under the rims of his glasses. "I am sorry," he says. "She was a great lady and mother. To me as well. Please accept my condolences."

My dad nods. "Come in," he says, then blocks the door with his body once again. I'd tell my dad to stop being a bouncer and join the, I don't know, party/sports bar/competitive corned beef fest, but he's better off where he is. Neighbors and these strangers don't know their boundaries.

"Sure looks like there'll be plenty of leftovers ... can feed a whole fleet ... or just your dad. Take care of the old man, will ya?" "Playin' any sports, Denny?" "You should talk to someone." "Really sorry about, you know ... ever been to Maine?"

And then someone says, "It's really heartbreaking for me, too," and all I hear is I'm leaving, I barely knew her, I've stayed too long.

There are sweat stains under my arms. Thanks, Old Spice. There's a mustard stain on the carpet—not from Uncle Mustard. This one's brown and probably spicy and definitely making a wet circle the size of a quarter on top of the fabric. At the crowded dining room table, the smell of sour pickles, the sound of crinkling cellophane. Neighbors and aunts talk about the SATs, how the test is hard and rotten and so are the tutors. I should feel grateful I still have about five years before I take it. But I don't feel grateful. I hope whoever is in charge of Thanksgiving cancels it next month.

Someone fills a glass at the sink without waiting for the cold water to cool down. I should tell them it's warm.

My bouncer dad eyes the corned beef. The neighbors are buzzing in my ear again and it's making me dizzy: "If there's anything you need, Denny, you know where to find us." "Following the Phillies?" "Man, you're in the seventh grade already?" "Do people at school know?" "You look snazzy in that suit." "It must be so tough." "Make sure you keep busy." "It is what it is." "How are you coping?" "Seen any movies recently?" "What are you up to later?" "Sure looks like it's shaping up to be a lovely day outside." "Such a lovely service this morning, wouldn't you say?"

The sweat stains under my arms are swelling, and there's so much I want to say to these people, shout to these people, write down for them to read and reread so they'll never ever bother me again, but all I can think is, Dear Old Spice deodorant: You suck.



3 ½ months later

"Aloha, goddess of mathematics!" I give Mrs. Q a gummy smile as I walk into a packed math class. "Aloha!"

I live in New Jersey, not Hawaii, but I love me some Aloha. Love the sound of it. Who doesn't? Come on, everyone loves the sound of "Aloha," even teachers, and people with really bad taste, like teachers. Ah, those gods and goddesses of literature, mathematics, and other fine subjects ... If I were a teacher, I'd love to be called a god or goddess. And to be told how good I look.

"Wow, Mrs. Q, did anyone ever tell you that you have really nice earlobes?"

I don't have a whole lot of any experience whatsoever with pickup lines, but that's my favorite one, not that I'm trying too hard in any way to come on to Mrs. Q on this February morning. Though I do mention, as she reaches instinctively for her earlobes, that she looks aces, which is an awesome word that means awesome.

She shuts her eyes and bites her lower lip. "Denny, please sit down."

Teachers just don't know how to take a compliment. They really don't. They get all paranoid that you're using some kind of teenage-coded sarcasm to make fun of them, which of course is unfounded and ridiculous and downright insulting.

And usually true. (I might've once told last year's sixth grade science teacher that his lectures were "whack," horrible, lame. Chuckling nervously, he said, "I'll take that as a compliment, Denny. Being whacky is a good thing." Couldn't agree more.)

In this case, Mrs. Q really does look aces. Her skirt is nicely pressed, her hair pulled back in a ponytail. And you already know about those magnificent earlobes. Plus, her skin is as smooth as butterscotch pudding, but it'd be a whole lot smoother if she weren't a rookie teacher. How do I know she's a rookie? Because she's young and pretty, and her breath smells like coffee, her eyes droop like old flowers, and the bright orange poster on the outside of her door says, "You are entering the Learning Zone."

It really says that. The Learning Zone.

When the class gets rowdy, which is pretty much whenever I drop by these days, she points to the poster to remind us that we've entered the Learning Zone, as if the reason we're talking is simply because we've forgotten what zone we're in.

"Denny, please take a seat."

"Mrs. Q!" I gasp. "Take one of your seats? Heavens, no! Good heavens, no. I am not a thief. A borrower, sure; a lender, certainly. But a thief? No, ma'am."

Her seats don't exactly have street value. The desks and chairs are attached, like foldout trays on an airplane, or an armrest, or a skimpy one-piece bathing suit. Not that I wear skimpy bathing suits or anything. Seriously, I don't. I mean it. (Right now I'm wearing a green long-sleeved T-shirt and baggy jeans. Not a skimpy bathing suit.)

I glance at the rest of the class beyond Mrs. Q. Smiling faces, as chipper as a Sunday afternoon. And why not, for they're all enjoying my morning performance, except for Sabrina, who sits in the front row and always asks for extra math homework. But everyone else is chipper, especially my Rockafella crew: a small group of devoted homeys who never fail to laugh on command. We're not a gang, we're not even friends. I don't have many of those not named Manny, not that I discriminate based on name. I'd happily befriend someone not named Manny but ... anyway, the Rockafellas respect my craft, my art of faking it. To steal a word from my dad, the Rockafellas and I are colleagues. We may not be friends, but we work together. In harmony.

From the right side of the room, they're warming their golden pipes, feeling out the rhythm.

"What what?!" cries Billy D. He isn't asking a question.

"Wicki wicki wicki!" shouts Doug E. He's spinning an imaginary record.

"Yup yup," says Sean. I don't know his last initial. Or anyone's last name. They're just my harmonic colleagues. Wicki, wicki, wicki, pop-u-lar-ity, hee-hee. Just a little sample of our hits.

One of the Rockafellas screams out, "DO-NUTS! DO-NUTS!" which is sort of my name. Manny named me. Not because I like donuts or I'm shaped like one or because my middle name sounds similar to donuts, like Dontz or Domus. Not because my first word was "donut" or because I dressed as a donut for Halloween when I was too young to know any better.


Excerpted from Sorry You're Lost by Matt Blackstone. Copyright © 2014 Matt Blackstone. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Matt Blackstone joined Teach for America after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania and presently teaches high school English. He lives in East Meadow, New York.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

Sorry You're Lost 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago