Telling a story of a rarely recognized segment of eating disorder sufferers—young men—A Trick of the Light by Lois Metzger is a book for fans of the complex characters and emotional truths in Laurie Halse Anderson’s Wintergirls and Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why.
Mike Welles had everything under control. 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 he’s a mess. Then there’s a voice in his head. A friend, who’s trying to help him get control again. More than that—the voice can guide him to become faster and stronger than he was before, to rid his life of everything that’s holding him back. To figure out who he is again. If only Mike will listen.
Lois Metzger was born in Queens and has always written for young adults. She is the author of three previous novels and two nonfiction books about the Holocaust, and she has edited five anthologies. Her short stories have appeared in collections all over the world. Her writing has also appeared in The New Yorker and The Nation, and she blogs for The Huffington Post. She lives in New York City with her husband, writer Tony Hiss, and their son.
Why I am a Young Adult Writer and Not a Writer for Adults
By Lois Metzger
I was born in Queens. My parents, older brother and I moved several times before I went away to college upstate, but we always stayed in Queens—which, though part of New York City, didn’t feel like a city. Or a suburb, or a small town, or the countryside. This place that felt like no place became the fictional neighborhood “Belle Heights,” where my imagination seems to live. My latest novel, “A Trick of the Light,” just out in paperback, takes place in Belle Heights.
When I was seven, I sat on the edge of an old, enormous tree stump. Sadly, a magnificent tree had been cut down because an old lady thought the tree would fall on her apartment. She had a dog whose ears were always taped up. The dog’s name was “Impy,” short for “Impossible.”
On that tree stump, I had an odd experience. Suddenly, the whole world looked entirely, overwhelmingly, different. I saw my life split into two parts. Early childhood was on one side of this moment, and the rest of childhood was on the other.
It happened again seven years later, at age 14. I can’t remember where I was, definitely not on the tree stump. Again, in an instant. This time, all of childhood was on one side of the moment, and early adulthood loomed on the other. My “14-year-old head” was seeing everything anew. This was also when I started writing. My first short story, “Let Me Tell You a Little Bit About Myself,” was written from the point of view of a 14-year-old girl I knew. She was madly in love with her boyfriend, Paul. The first line was, “I love Paul and I always will.” She went on to have a fight with Paul, and fell in love with several other guys, and then made up with Paul. The last line was, “I love Paul and I always will.” The story, never published of course, taught me about character, voice, and structure.
So I figured I had a pattern; this transformation, or whatever it was, which had occurred at seven and 14, would happen every seven years—at 21, 28, 35, and so on.
But it never happened again.
I’ve passed quite a few seven-year milestones since then, and I’m still writing for 14-year-olds in my 14-year-old head.
This is also why many of my characters experience life-altering changes at lightning speeds. I don’t question if this is realistic. I know it is because it happened to me. Twice.