Cover of A Trick of the Light by Lois Metzger. A very skinny, shirtless boy bangs his head against the wall. HIs shadow is much huskier than he really is.

About the Book

Title: A Trick of the Light
Published: 2013

Cover Story: Not That There’s Anything Wrong With That
Drinking Buddy:
Maybe a Lite Beer
Testosterone Level:
Man Vs. Himself?
Talky Talk:
The Voices In My Head Don’t Like You
Bonus Factors:
Manorexia, Stop Motion Animation
Bromance Status:
The Creepy Guy I Still Have a Lot in Common With

Cover Story: Not That There’s Anything Wrong With That

Okay, we have the muscular, shirtless boy, pressing his handsome face into the wall in angst.

Yeah, teen boys aren’t going to want to be seen reading a book about a shirtless boy. Quite frankly, I wasn’t too thrilled about it. Guys, especially young guys, don’t like to look like they’re reading about feelings, romance, or hunky young studs. This is a great book about a boy, with a cover that will immediately turn off boys.

Of course, lots of book covers are guilty of this, including mine.

The Deal:

Mike has kind of been letting himself go lately. Though he plays baseball, he’s developing a spare tire. He’d rather watch classic movies with his bud Tamio than exercise. His mother is busy with her job as a professional organizer and his pop is occupied boning his mistress.

But Mike is about to make a new friend. One that only he can hear. A little voice in his head, one that drives him, encourages him, makes him want to be a better person. A voice that gets him to cut out the junk food, to start running, and to sculpt that pudgy body into something he can be proud of.

This voice wants only what’s best for Mike. It looks out for him. Cares for him. Not like Tamio. Not like his parents. Not like those meddling doctors and therapists. They don’t understand. Mike is on the threshold of something incredible.

All he has to do is stop eating.

Drinking Buddy: Maybe a Lite Beer

Two pints of beer cheersing

Mike’s an okay guy, one a lot of awkward readers can relate to. He likes obscure films, falls in love too intensely and too quickly, and is having a hard time when his father announces he’s leaving the family for a much younger woman.

Of course, once Mike starts listening to you-know-who, things change. He becomes moody and paranoid, turning on his friends and family. Every time someone suggests that it’s not healthy to have a body temperature of 92 degrees (he no longer has the calories to maintain body heat), he accuses them of plotting against him. Not surprisingly, Mike ends up having to ‘go away’ for a while.

Still, the great geniuses were all a little mad, weren’t they? Maybe when Mike makes the great indie film of his generation, he can use these experiences.

Testosterone Level: Man Vs. Himself?

Remember high school English, where they said there were only four basic plot types? Man vs. Nature, Man, Society, or Himself. Well, this book is purely the last category. All the struggles here are internal. Not super thrilling, but it was kind of a nail biter, watching his slow decent into madness.

Talky Talk: The Voices in My Head Don’t Like You

We all have those little voices in our head. Some people’s are benign: Brian, don’t you have a book you’re supposed to be working on? Some aren’t: Get the rifle! Climb the tower! Make ’em pay! Make ’em ALL pay!

But some voices speak louder than others. And Mike’s voice speaks very loud. So loud it kind of surprises him when he first hears it. The messages, at first, are good advice: You don’t need to eat that junk and Make friends with the weird girl, she’s actually very nice.

However, the messages soon devolve into a blind mantra demanding that Mike never eat and exercise constantly.

Now here’s the weird part. This book is told from the voice’s point of view. Seriously. First person.

We’re never told what exactly the voice is, whether some sort of hallucination, an otherworldly entity, or a Jack Chick demon.

Cartoon devil whispering subliminal messages into a sleeping boy's ear

The point it, it’s the one telling the story. It’s proud of Mike when he loses weight, and gives him advice on how to trick his mother and doctors into believing he’s healthy.

I have to give Metzger props for this very original literary device. Hey, disembodied voices have feelings too (apparently).

Bonus Factor: Manorexia

Bowl of Indian food with naan bread next to it

People tend to picture eating disorders as a female thing. We’ve all seen the very special episodes where the poor girl forces herself to vomit so she can be pretty. In reality, ten percent or so of those with eating disorders are male.

This book does a good job of realistically portraying a boy with serious anorexia. He does, however, team up with an anorexic girl named Amber, who teaches him how to cut calories and hide lead weights in his pocket to trick the scales. While Amber borders on being an over the top character (she sacrifices her blood to the ‘goddess of anorexia’), they make a wonderful couple of the most dysfunctional sort.

Bonus Factor: Stop-Motion Animation

1933 King Kong batting at airplanes

Mike and Tamio are big fans of the lost art of stop motion animation. For you kids out there, that was early CGI. The special effects people would build a model, photograph it, move it a millimeter, and photograph it again. Like twenty-four times per second of film. The boys enjoy such classics as the original Jason and the Argonauts and King Kong. A great way to introduce readers to this forgotten filmmaking technique.

Bromance Status: The Creepy Guy I Still Have a Lot in Common With

Kind of avoided this strange book for a long time, but now that I’ve read this, I dunno, I guess I know where you’re coming from. You stay strong, dude. And eat a sandwich, you’re down to under two-hundred pages.

FTC Full Disclosure: Balzer and Bray sent me a copy for free. I received no money, and the book now lives on as a high school library book.

Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.